Friday, August 31, 2007

Swimming Across The Channel or How to Almost Die When You Are 18 And Stupid

Flash Back Friday

I pledged a sorority when I was in college. One of the best experiences of my life and I still have friends I made back then, yada yada yada. But this post is not about my fabulous experiences with pirate buns and pillow fights with the other girls while dressed only in our panties. OK, that totally never happened, but think how many Google hits I may get now?

This post is not about that. This post is about the time I almost died.

Right after I went through rush, we went on a retreat to a big lake house for the weekend. It was a beautiful place, right on the gorgeous lake with a huge dock for jumping in the water and swimming. I put on my bathing suit and went out to the dock, where I proceeded to sit on the edge, dangling my feet in the water and shyly not talking to anyone. In reality, I didn't know anyone in the group. I had gone through open rush, which means I didn't go to any parties, I was just rushed all by my lonesome. So I didn't know the other pledges yet and I barely knew the older girls who had invited me over. And, at that point in my life, I was painfully, painfully shy. Believe it or not.

As I perched there, one of the older girls, a blonde goddess named Cec (short for Cecily and I would have died to have a cool name like that) dove in the water and proceeded to swim to the other side of the lake. Cec was on the University synchronized swim team, she was tall and lean and fabulous and the swim was nothing for her. And I thought "Hey. I am a good swimmer. I will be cool just like Cec and swim to the other side of the lake too!" And I dove in.

Nobody noticed. Nobody looked. Nobody saw. They didn't dislike me. They just didn't know me. They didn't care enough to notice me. And I began swimming.

By this time, Cec had made a complete circuit of the lake and was pulling herself out onto the dock and toweling off. She headed inside the house, never looking back to see me doggedly making my way across the lake.

And I kept swimming. I didn't realize that lake was so big. Those rocks on the other side looked just as big as they had when I dove in. The water was very deep. And very cold. And I was alone in it. My arms were getting tired. I finally stopped and hesitated, treading water. I looked back. Nobody on the dock was even looking my way. My arms were very tired. My legs were aching. And I suddenly realized how stupid I had been. I needed to get back. Right away.

So I began swimming back. Each stroke was harder and harder. My arms and legs were truly hurting now. I was panting. My head kept going under the water as I stroked and I choked a couple of times. The dock looked no closer. I put my head down and swam and swam and swam.

And finally I made it back. I pulled myself up on the dock, panting and heaving with exhaustion. I collapsed in a heap, trembling, and wrapped myself in my towel. I looked back over the lake at the rocks so very far away and closed my eyes in relief that I had made it back.

And nobody even noticed me.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lights, Camera, SHUT UP!

Thoughts after going to the movies...

1. They tell you way too much in movie previews now. Even the ending. Isn't that just SO annoying?

2. But I still LOVE previews. I could watch a dozen of them.

3. People talk too much in the movies. And too loud. I blame watching movies at home for this. They forget they are not in their own living room. I could remind them if I had, like, a little, mini cattle prod. I wouldn't hurt them. It would be just a LITTLE shock.

4. They should have a cell phone detector installed in the entryway and take away all the cell phones. Because people still let them ring. And some ANSWER them.

5. Most people who are writing movies now are big ole copycats. There are so many fabulous books out there - how come they don't make movies out of those?

6. On the other hand, the book is ALWAYS better than the movie.

7. Movie makers think the general public is pretty much a bunch of dummies. We are not that dumb. We are actually pretty smart.

8. Why are snacks at the movies so exorbitantly expensive? You can get a full meal at a restaurant for what you will pay for popcorn, candy and a drink. OK, maybe a meal at McDonald's. But still.

9. Children who kick the back of your seat continuously should be removed from the theatre. And the parent who lets them do it should have someone kick them in the butt.

10. Parents who take children to inappropriate movies which are too mature for them should also get a kick in the butt. OK, maybe not a kick in the butt. They should just all be removed. Everyone who bothers me. And only I get to decide who that might be.

11. They never put enough ice in your iced tea at a restaurant. Not actually about going to the movies, but it annoys me. And this is my blog.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Magic Of Publication

What do you think of my face lift? No, not THAT face lift, silly (I wish!), my blog face lift!! Isn't Liz just so, so fabulously talented? She laughed hysterically when she found out I had created my other header in Microsoft Paint. What? It's the only graphic design program I know. Although, I'm not sure you could actually categorize it as a graphic design program. More a program for incompetent graphic designers. Anyway, she was happy to redesign my blog and I LOVE it. She is going to create blog templates as a sideline so, as soon as she has some samples, I'll link to her site.

OK, you remember the blog post I wrote about forgetting approximately four skillion times to Insert/Hyperlink instead of Copying/Pasting into Microsoft Outlook 2007? Well, that is no longer an issue. Every time I go to send an email now (approximately four skillion and six times a day), I remember to insert/hyperlink. I am so proud of myself. ALMOST as proud as the time I was voted the neatest girl in 8th grade, but not quite. And don't you love the way I got that proud, proud moment from my childhood into two posts? I'm not quite sure what that says about my accomplishments as an adult. And I'm not going to dwell on it.

Anyway. I don't forget to do that now. So, that got me to thinking. And I thought, maybe it's because I blogged about it. Actually published the fact that I couldn't remember. And now every time, I do it, I think about that blog and chuckle a little. Yes, I AM easily amused. So, I thought, what if I just blog about everything I want to happen and it will just magically happen!! How fabulous would that be? So, forthwith, the things I am going to post about today that are now going to magically happen.

1. I lost 40 pounds. I was going to say 30, but, really, why skimp? 40 would get me back to what I weighed when I was about 35 so that would be even better. And it was effortless. Easy. The pounds JUST FELL OFF.

2. My hair went blonde NATURALLY. And had these great, light colored streaks that look like I spend all my time in Tahiti. I never had to pay to color my hair again. Oh, and it never grew either. Stayed the perfect style all the time. And I had a great hair day EVERY DAY.

3. I got a maid service and never clean my house any more. And, because they think I am just a fabulous person and they like me SO MUCH, they don't charge me. It's all free. They even do all my laundry.

4. They changed my hours at school because they know it's so hard to get up that early. Now, I come in around 10 or so. Whenever I wake up. It's all cool. They just wait for me. Everyone is happy to do it.

5. We have a personal chef who cooks for us several times a week. He prepares wonderful food, beautifully prepared but also healthy for us. And he also likes me SO MUCH, that he does it all for free.

6. My memory is magically restored and I can remember everything. Where I left my glasses! The name of every kid at my school! My childhood! The name of that shop in Alaska where I saw that hot pink leather jacket I totally should have bought. And they send it to me when they see this in my blog. And it's free. Because, you know. They like me.

7. When I started this list, I thought I would make it consist of 10 items. And now I can't think of anything else to list. Anything else I want to happen. Everything else I would ever want, I already have in my life.

And that makes me feel pretty darn good. And now that's published. So, it must be true.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sorry, Wrong Number... You DUMMY!

So, apparently, my cell phone number is one digit away from the phone number for a local Chinese restaurant which delivers.

There is a woman who is having a great deal of difficulty with this concept.

The first time she called me and asked to order some delivery, I politely told her she had the wrong number. She asked if it was thus and such number and I told her no. The number she quoted was one digit away from mine. Apparently, she can NOT grasp this concept. Or she has some sort of difficulty with dialing.

She called me again the other day. Same request. One would think when I answer with "Hello" instead of "Wang Cho's takeout, how can I help you?" that would give her a clue, but no. She began giving me her order for Moo Goo Gai Pan. I interrupted her and told her she had the wrong number. She sighed impatiently and hung up.

She called again today. Again, she asked to give me her takeout order. Again, I told her politely she had the wrong number. And I said (politely, mind you) that she might want to check the number the next time.

And she said "Get a life, honey". GET A LIFE! GET A LIFE! Me get a life? I'm not the one ordering Chinese food three times in one week in the MIDDLE OF THE DAY. I'm not the one who is physically incapable of dialing the correct number. Get a life. I'll get you a life. I'll END your life. You just better not call me again. Or I'll take your order and then sit back and wait for you to realize that your Chinese food is never, ever going to be delivered.

That will show you. Get a life. YOU GET A LIFE. HONEY.

Monday, August 27, 2007

"Imagination is More Important Than Knowledge"

The above quote is from Albert Einstein, who, one would think, would consider knowledge much more important than imagination. But I am in total agreement with him. Imagination is much more important. Just think about all the great inventors who had very little education.

Several years ago, I designed an online story for my kindergarten students to teach them about library manners. I took stuffed monkeys and arranged them in a variety of situations, such as surrounding them with books they had pulled from a shelf, and took pictures of them. (And didn't I have fun doing that!) Then, I added narration and showed it to each class, talking about the bad monkeys and how they had to learn manners. From the first time I showed it and talked about it to the kids right up to today, I get the same response. Some immediately want to know if the monkeys are real. Were they REALLY bad when I left at night? Did they REALLY mess up the library? And there's almost always one or two who look at them with exasperation and say "Of course they are real. DIDN'T YOU WATCH THE STORY?" They watched the story. They processed the story. They believed the story.

The difference between those students who questioned and those who believed is that some of them have imagination. Here's the formula I invented and am proud to share with you right now. Any money generated by sharing this formula, of course, is entirely mine. A money order is fine.

Good Writing + Imagination = Belief

I have a good imagination. This can be both a blessing and a curse. When I see a traffic accident or read about a tragedy, my imagination often goes into overdrive. I fall into a mini-daydream of what if. What if that happened to this family member? And then this happened. And then that happened. And then this completely horrible thing happened. It is so real in my mind that I can literally make myself sick with remorse and sorrow. And then I snap out of it. That's the curse.
But it's a blessing when it comes to creative design - like the story I wrote for the kids. Or when I am reading or watching TV or a movie. With good writing and my imagination, I can completely fall into a story and become so enmeshed in these people's lives that I worry about them when I am not watching or viewing.
One example is when Tom and I became seriously obsessed, as I have mentioned before, with watching the DVD releases of the Buffy and Angel series. Although the shows are about supernatural beings and occurrences, the primary story line is about the doomed love affair between the petite, blonde vampire slayer and the hunky vampire. I can't express to you how anguished I was while watching this show. I was so completely involved in their lives and the lives of their heroic friends that they were constantly in my thoughts. Even though, in reality, I knew they could never be together, my imagination was constantly conjuring up stories about how it could work out. We have finished watching the shows and they both came to satisfactory endings. As satisfactory as they could be, anyway. And I still worry about them and think about ways that, maybe, just possibly, they could work it out and be together. See.

Good Writing + Imagination = Belief
The same thing happened as we watched the previous episodes of
Smallville. The difference with this show is that, since we know the superman mythos and what will happen in the future, everything in this show is technically a flashback. So, even though we both know the intense love Clark and Lana feel for each other is doomed, we still want it to work out. Our imaginations work overtime trying to make this happen. One of the main characters was killed the other night and Tom and I were upset for days. We still talk about it. The sadness. How it will affect all their lives. These are IMAGINARY people, y'all. Yet, we are seriously concerned.
Books are even better than any of the visual media in this regard because your imagination can not only envision what might happen with the characters, it can paint a whole visual landscape of where they are and what is happening, what they might look like, wear, how they would think. One of the books I can remember this happening with most clearly is Outlander. If you haven't read this, you should immediately click on Amazon and order it. It's a time travel romance story, a genre that probably began with the excellent story A Knight in Shining Armor and has since degenerated somewhat with a plethora of silly books about heavily muscled Vikings appearing from the past in women's bedrooms. In Outlander, Claire travels to ancient Scotland through the mysterious standing stones in England. Although it's a rather thick book, it is easy to read because of the excellent writing and because you become so involved in Claire and Jamie's story that your imagination brings them to life just as if you knew them personally. When Claire, inevitably, must return home, my heart just ached and I worried about them for ages. Until the next book in the series came out. Always a satisfying situation.
I get discouraged occasionally about how few of my students show real imagination. I honestly don't know if this is a result of reading less, watching too much mind-numbing television and movies and playing video games which require just a flick of the thumb for action to occur, or if there have always been just a few students in every group who have an active imagination. I don't know. And I don't know how many adults have an active imagination like mine. Sometimes, it can be a curse. I'd like to rein it in when it upsets me with visions of what could be. But most of the time it's a blessing.
When it, again, shows me what could be.
What, with a little imagination and some good storytelling, it could be. Should be. Satisfyingly, heart-warmingly, happily, should be.

Friday, August 24, 2007

So, So Lucky

It is absolutely pouring rain outside. The sky looks gray and dreary and too close to the drenched grass through the windows and the sound of the rain pounding on the roof is strangely lulling. On days like this, I always wonder about homeless people. What they do. Where they go. How they stay warm and dry and comfortable.

For some reason, I think about this often. When I dash outside late in the evening to take out a trash bag and it's quickly getting dark and an icy cold wind is blowing, I think "What if I had to STAY out here? What if I didn't have my nice, warm, cozy house to run back into?" I look up from the trash can and see my windows glowing with a golden, welcoming light and I wonder how they manage.

I can't even imagine an existence that does not include a safe place to live. If you are reading this, you have a computer, a home, a safe place to live. And aren't we so lucky? So, so lucky?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair!

So, remember when I told you I was going bald? I was trying to be funny and light-hearted and all that crap but, really, I was a little nervous about it. You know how when you are pregnant, you see ALL these other pregnant women and you think, "Wow, everyone else is pregnant, too!", when, in reality, there were just as many women pregnant around when you were non-pregnant, you just never noticed them!

Same exact thing with going bald. All of a sudden, I noticed all these other women my age who had, like, seriously thinning hair. I mean seriously. Where did all these women come from? How come I never noticed them before? And, last and by far most important, AM I GOING TO LOOK LIKE THAT? But. At least at this point, it seems to have stopped falling out. I mean, I still get random hairs in the shower and on the sink but it's just a few here and there. It's not like the wads I was taking out of the shower drain after every single shower. So, I'm thinking (and hoping) maybe it was a fluke. A one time thing. A surge in hormones. Or it could have been my hairdresser.

I mentioned my hairdresser (who knows nothing about this blog so I can LAY HER OUT) in another post about divorce and how I felt sorry for her, divorcing after 14 years of marriage. Well, I take it all back.

She and I had a knock-down, drag out fight last time she did my hair and if she didn't normally do such a good job and I hadn't been going to her for years and if I wasn't a wuss about finding someone else to do my hair, I would totally never go back. She refused to admit that she had made my hair a different color the last time she colored it. Adamantly refused. Even though I was sitting there with a different color on my hair and everyone had agreed with me that, yes indeed, it was a different color, she insisted that she had done exactly the same thing and it must have been my hormones. My hormones turned my hair from a pretty strawberry blonde to a brassy, metallic looking dark blonde? Uh, no. I know hormones can do crazy things, including messing with your hair but it WAS A DIFFERENT COLOR.

I was insistent, she was insistent, it became kind of embarrassing because the other stylists were all listening and shuffling their feet and acting like they couldn't hear.

Anyway. We worked it out. She fixed the color. It's still not perfect, but it's better. And now I'm thinking. When my hair was falling out was one of the times she had made it kind of a weird, darker blonde. I'm sure she wouldn't do it on purpose because, really what kind of as stylist doesn't want return business, but maybe...while she was thinking about her cheatin' husband...she mixed up the dye a little too strong.

I'm hoping that was it. And it was just a one time thing. And also. I'm thinking now maybe it's not a good idea to piss off the person who was maybe responsible for making some of my hair fall out. I really don't want any more to fall out. So maybe I just won't worry if the color of my hair is not exactly right.

As long as it's all there.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Books That Made A Difference To Me

Have you seen that feature in "O" magazine where celebrities talk about the books they have read that have made a difference in their lives? I read it every month and just CACKLE OUT LOUD at the books and authors they choose. Come on, now. Is one of your absolute favorite books REALLY a book by Ernest Hemingway and another by Philip Roth? Their lists always include classic books, books by authors I have never heard of, books that, frankly, sound extremely boring. Do they REALLY choose these books? They always have these completely deep, insightful things to say about the books also. COME ON. I'm not saying celebrities can't be intelligent, articulate, perceptive...OK, I am.

That's not really fair, since I am sure some are. I mean, some have actually graduated from Yale and other fancy-schmany places. But why don't they ask some average, normal people about books that have made a difference to them? Like ME?

And, now that I have said that, it would be very difficult to come up with a list of books that have made a difference to me. Because every single book I read makes a difference to me. I'm a ruthless reader. If a book does not grab me pretty quickly, I throw it aside and pick up another one. I always have a pile of books available. I visit the library every week and buy books as well. I read voraciously and omnivorously. I am not a slave to genre. Here is my criteria for a good book. It must tell a good story. That's it. It can be a Romance, a Western, a Science Fiction story, a Fantasy, a Mystery, or any combination of those, but it must tell a good story.

There are authors and titles in my head right now clamoring for attention and I am sure as soon as I exit from this post, I will think of more, but let me share just a few of my favorites.

Lightning, by Dean Koontz
Several of his books are trying to make their way onto this list and I would love to list them all because I think he is an author who makes his characters so alive that when you think about them later, you actually have to make an effort to remember if you read about them in a book or met them at a party. But this one is my favorite because I love time travel stories with all the many different outcomes that could result. The central premise of this one is a surprise to the reader, which doesn't often happen to me. I almost always figure that stuff out. Not this time.

Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
Another time travel story, but in this one, she travels into the past back to Scotland, though the standing stones. One of the most powerful love stories I have ever read, this is the first in a series and will keep you enthralled from the first page to the last with the story of Jamie and Claire.

Confessions of a Shopaholic, by Sophie Kinsella
Ernest Hemingway? Pah! I'm much rather read something that makes me laugh out loud. Chick Lit has gotten a bum rap from some other bloggers recently, but, like all genres, there is the good and there is the bad. This is the good. You will love Rebecca and all her adventures in shopping, money management and romance in this one and in the sequels to this book.

One For the Money, by Janet Evanovich
If you haven't met Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter and owner of the perfect big hair and hastily applied mascara, you have a treat in store. There's also several in the series, so once you are hooked, you can read them all.

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
And now one that is a little more serious. I discovered Ayn Rand in college and, although she does get a little wordy at times, I still love her characters and the stories she tells. I still think about events that happened in this book and it's been decades since I read it. And I want to BE Dagny Taggart.

The Stand, by Stephen King
I am faithful to Stephen and always read his new books, even though some of them make me...queasy. But my favorite is this one (although it was a close contest with The Talisman) because I love a story that pits good against evil and has great characters.

The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
This is the first in a trilogy she wrote about the King Arthur legend. I love it because it tells the story of Merlin from the time he was a little boy and makes all the characters we have read about before, seem so very real.

OK, I'm going to stop. I could write and write and write about books, but there's a few you might want to check out. I think I'll just go read instead of writing about more. And so should you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"Everyone has a photographic memory. Some just don't have film."

Do you have Microsoft Office 2007 yet? Well, I do. And it is making me CRAZY. The programs are all fairly similar and not too difficult to use but Outlook 2007 has a new feature that is making me CRAZY. CRAZY, I tell you.

You know how when you used to just type in a url in Outlook, that http thing, or copy and paste it, and it would just AUTOMATICALLY, because it was just SO SMART, make it into a hyperlink? Well, it doesn't do that any more. Instead, you have to click on Insert, THEN copy and paste the url, then it will insert it as a hyperlink.

Do you know how many times I have copied that url into an email instead of going through those steps? Do you have any idea? Approximately four skillion. Because I CAN NOT remember that you have to do it that way now. I. can't. remember. I seem to be physically unable to remember that I have to do that. And, of course, it seems like I insert a hyperlink into my email messages constantly. So, every time. I have to go through the two steps. Do it the old way, realize that doesn't work any more, then do it the new way. EVERY SINGLE TIME. God.

I guess once I do it the new way enough times, I will finally remember. But maybe not.

Last night, as I was going upstairs, Tom asked me to plug in his beard trimmer. It has a battery that has to charge so he wanted it charged up when he came upstairs to take his shower in a few minutes. I came upstairs and promptly forgot. I think I might have actually forgotten when I was about halfway up the stairs.

He came up, went back in the bathroom and called out "Why isn't my beard trimmer plugged in???" Oops. Sorry. No memory. None at all. NON-EXISTENT.

Monday, August 20, 2007

You Like Me! You Really Like Me! (With apologies to Sally Field.)

Well...well...picture me blushing here. The folks over at So Many Blogs, So Little Time just gave the nicest, kindest review of my blog. They are the second reviewers to grade me down on my template, so I guess I'll have to get that certain graphic artist in the family (I'm talking to you, Liz!) to design me a fab new template. Keep checking for updates.

In other news...I just had the greatest weekend! No, it wasn't jam-packed with activities and outings and parties and orgies. Oh, sorry, that just slipped in. Not that I have ever been to an orgy. But you are wondering now, aren't you? Good. I have to have SOME secrets on this blog.

Anyway, I had a great weekend because I did...NOTHING. NOTHING. Well, that's not strictly true since all the regular, fun stuff that makes my life worth living EVERY SINGLE DAY still had to be done, like cooking and cleaning and laundry. But I did not have to leave the house. I slept late, stayed in pajamas until late (afternoon) morning, got some reading done and just geared...back...mentally. It was lovely. And I needed it after that first week of school.

One would think that working with elementary school age children would be a breeze. Especially in the library. Reading to them. Checking out books. How hard can it be? The other school librarians out there are nodding their heads knowingly. It's just...hard. It's wonderful every day and I love my job, but it's...hard. It's hard to have a kindergarten class walk out the door and a fifth grade class walk in and have to change your entire way of teaching and talking. It's hard to help a teacher find materials, help a kid find a book they will love, work on the school web pages, help another kid, teach a class, shelve some books, work on a literacy bulletin board, print out a brochure you have created for a program, teach a class, work with a group of kids who are doing research on the Internet, help a teacher choose a DVD, teach a get the idea. By the time I get home in the afternoon, I am ready for a nap. One of my fellow librarians told me the other day she fell asleep sitting up her couch at 4:45 in the afternoon and didn't wake up until 7:00.

I'm not saying that ever happens to me. Or that I wake up with a crick in my neck and drool on the couch pillow. That almost never happens.

Friday, August 17, 2007

How Can You Mend A Broken Toe?

Flash Back Friday

I have little, tiny, white scars on all the toes of my left foot. You would never notice them. I don't ever think about them. But they are there. They are there because, when I was about six years old, I broke every single toe on that foot. Yeah. I bet you are thinking, "Every toe? How does someone break every single toe?" Well, it wasn't hard. It was actually pretty easy. It happened in an instant.

They were redoing the storm drains in my neighborhood and had brought in these big, huge, cement (uh, I mean concrete, sorry Tom) pipes and left them strewn around in this grassy field. What great toys! (And wouldn't the parents have been horrified to know what we were doing?) They were big enough for a kid to run through but mobile enough for another kid to stand on and roll. Can you see where I'm going with this? As I ran through one, another kid rolled the same pipe. My right foot made it just fine but my left foot was trapped under the pipe as it rolled.

In hindsight, I guess it could have been worse. I could have fallen under the pipe and had something much worse than my foot crushed. Like my head. But just my foot was trapped. I'm sure I made a sound like a thousand cats having their tails rocked on by a rocking chair. I don't remember all the details. I do remember falling down in pain and looking down to see that my shoe was absolutely crushed.

There really isn't anything the doctor can do about a broken toe. It's not like they can put a teeny tiny cast on it. You just have to let them heal. And they did, finally. But the healing left tiny white scars across my toe. You have to look hard to see them. But I can see them. I can see them VERY clearly.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Coordinating Your Bath Gel And Lotion. Or, Being Just A Little Too Anal

I don't use bath soap. Ever. And before you back away, shaking your head to rid your nose of the odor of an unwashed body (and really? Do you READ my blog? Do you think a person who wears matching underwear and has innumerable shoes is gonna be stinky?), I don't use bath soap because I switched to bath gel years ago. I use the Bath and Body Works bath gel and lotion. And that is not a paid endorsement. Although it TOTALLY could be. I would be completely open to getting some free bath gel and lotion from Bath and Body Works in exchange for endorsing their products. Is anyone listening? Oh, well, it was worth a try. Because I do love me some good smelling bath gel and lotion.

But here's the problem. Does anyone else find this to be true? The lotion always runs out before the bath gel. I finally got smart and started buying TWO bottles of lotion for every bottle of bath gel, but I STILL end up with a couple of inches of bath gel in the bottle. Then I have to buy more lotion and I end up with more lotion than bath gel. What a quandary. Maybe it's because I slather lotion over every inch of my body, but I HAVE to. Otherwise I am dry and flaky. And it is not a pleasant experience to be scratching your boobs because they are so itchy when you are trying to teach a class of elementary students. So, the problem.

This morning, I looked at the bottles of bath gel and the bottles of lotion and realized I have several that don't even match up. So, I decided to make a bold move. A move that I am sure will land me in some kind of hall of fame for those bold and brave enough to make a major change in their bathtime ritual. I used bath gel and lotion THAT DID NOT MATCH. I know you are shaking your head in disbelief. I know. And I am just a little bit concerned that someone might report me to the bath gel and lotion police. Or at least to Bath and Body Works (did you notice how I got their name in this post twice? Surely that is worth some free products?) for mixing products. I couldn't match, but I at least tried to COORDINATE. I have on Warm Vanilla Sugar bath gel and Wild Cherry lotion. Sort of like a piece of candy you might find in a Whitman's Sampler. (More product placement. Ooooooo....Whitman's Samplers...).

So, I smell good. Good and sweet. Actually, sweet enough to eat if you consider the above titles. I may not match. But I smell good. And maybe those damn bottles will empty out at the same time. I'll keep you updated.

I'm golden. A kindergarten student just told me I smelled good.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ni Hao (Nee HaOW)

Ni Hao. Hello. In CHINESE. I am SO multi-lingual! We have a new Chinese teacher at our school this year and, since she is teaching several of her classes in the library, I will probably be COMPLETELY FLUENT in Chinese by the end of the year. I could probably travel in China and converse with eloquence and ease with native Chinese. Or maybe not.

We have several new teachers this year. Every year, when I see the bright, young (are they getting YOUNGER?) faces of our new teachers, I can't help but think about my first year of teaching. I cried SEVERAL times. I have since learned this is not unusual and that most new teachers cry several times their first year. It's just so overwhelming. The responsibility. The planning. You have to be ready to think on your feet, to be extremely organized, to listen with amazed interest to the lost tooth story for the hundredth time, and to move an entire group of children back in an instant when one of them barfs on the floor. It requires specialized training. Although the reaction to barfing is a built-in talent.

My first year of teaching, we still had sixth grade in elementary school. The next year, they were moved to the middle school and all I can say is, Thank God. They terrified me. Most of them were bigger than me, they talked loud and walked with a swagger and they knew I was a weenie. And they took advantage of it. They were on me like vultures on a wounded wildebeest. Basically, they ignored me. When I was teaching, they talked. When I was reading aloud, they talked. When we were watching a video, they talked. I tried and tried to get control. But they had it and they knew it. You are probably thinking this was like one of those teacher movies where I came in and taught them to dance or showed them my karate moves I learned in the Marines, but no. I never got control. At one point, I went to the principal and CRIED because they WOULD NOT LISTEN TO ME. She listened, sympathized, gave me some advice. But she had other teachers to deal with. I was on my own.

It took time, but I have control now. I own THE LOOK. The teacher look. That surprised, slightly amazed look that says "What? What do YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING? I KNOW you are not doing that." And it works most of the time. Almost all the time. The teacher voice works the rest of the time. Tom still mocks me for saying "EXCUSE ME?" in the teacher voice one time when he was in the library. But it works.

I wish I could tell all the new teachers that they will perfect THE LOOK and THE VOICE. In time. With lots of practice and lots of patience. They will make it. They will probably cry this year. But they will make it. They will make it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What A Handy Thing To Take On A Picnic!

So, I was driving home from school the other afternoon and I saw this guy peeing by the side of the road. Just standing there, peeing against a tree. I was appalled. I just couldn't believe it. It wasn't like he had even stepped into the trees. He was just standing there by the side of the road, facing into the trees. Peeing.

And you know how those thoughts go whizzing through your brain at like ten million miles an hour, one right after the other?

Well, that's just...rude.

I can't believe it.

Right by the road.

Anyone could see him.


Oooooh, I can't believe it.

What? that?

Wait a minute.

I could have sworn that branch was a...

Heh. That's a bush.

Looked JUST like a guy standing there.

Oh. Never mind.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Just Like A Pair Of Old Blue Jeans

Today is the first day of school AND my 30th wedding anniversary. Needless to say, we won't be indulging in a wild, drunken celebration this evening. Like we TOTALLY do that all the time. (She snorts with laughter, possibly snorting a little Caffeine-Free Diet Mountain Dew out her nose.) I'll probably collapse on the couch when I get home and maybe manage to summon enough energy to, just possibly, pick up the phone and order some dinner. Then we will probably watch us some Stargate. Another exciting evening at the home of Mrs. Who.

30 years. Wow. That's a lot of time. And it has FLOWN by. It really has. Life has a way of doing that. Just flying by so fast. Sometimes you wish it would slow down for just a moment, so you can enjoy and just relish that special moment a little longer. But there's always another one of those coming along if you are patient.

I have done some thinking about marriage with the arrival of this 30th anniversary. And here's what I have decided.

Marriage is like a pair of blue jeans. Bear with me.

When we were first married, marriage was like a brand new pair of jeans. Kinda stiff, kinda uncomfortable, kinda...annoying. They didn't fit quite right yet. We had to bend and stretch and wash them hundreds of times and wear them and train them to fit our butts just right. But now they do. They fit just right. Just perfect. I would not want a new pair of jeans. I love my jeans. They are, quite simply, the best pair of jeans I have ever had.

And I think I'll wear them for another 30 years.

Happy Anniversary, Baby. I love you.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I See A Biiiiiird...

Flash Back Friday

Y'all already know how crazy I am about clothes so can you imagine how I felt when I LOST ALL MY CLOTHES? No, I'm not just talking about the clothes off my back. I mean ALL MY CLOTHES.

It happened when I was sixteen. We lived in New Jersey but never considered ourselves Damn Yankees. My dad was from Kentucky, still owned a farm there and most of our family still lived in Kentucky. So we were Southerners to the bone. A couple years later, I went to the University of Kentucky, my family moved back to Kentucky and I never returned to New Jersey. And good riddance. And I am so sorry if y'all live in New Jersey. But come to Kentucky and you may never go back either. Anyway. I was sixteen and I lived for clothes. You may be asking how that is different from now and my answer is...well, it's not that different. I had a job at Mason's department store in the stockroom and every penny I made went towards buying new clothes. So, I had a lot of clothes. Darling clothes. Darling, I tell you.

Well, the time came for our summer vacation. Summer vacation for us normally consisted of either visiting family in Kentucky or my grandmother in Pensacola and this was a Kentucky summer. I had a boyfriend at the time and the thought of being separated from him for a week was just more anguish than my teenage heart could bear and my parents, taking pity on me and tired of hearing me whine, allowed Arthur to go on vacation with us. I packed up my suitcase with practically every stitch of clothing I owned (I still overpack.) and we got the car packed up. Arthur volunteered to tie our suitcases on the roof of the car. Carefully, he put them up there and looped the rope around and around, tying several tight knots.

And we set out for Kentucky.

Arthur and I were lying in the back and my two brothers were (fighting) sitting in the backseat. It was early and dark but as it got lighter and lighter and I got drowsy, looking out the back window, I noticed two birds fly by. Or I thought they were birds. I thought drowsily "Biiiiiirds..." and never thought another thing about it.

A couple of hours later, we stopped for a rest. And the suitcases were gone. GONE. They had blown off the top of the car. They were the two birds I had seen. You have never heard such weeping and wailing as I gave out when I realized my clothes were gone. My dad actually turned around and drove back for a couple of hours, looking for the suitcases. We stopped at a state police station and they assured us they would let us know if anyone turned them in. We headed back for Kentucky and I spent half the trip with my nose pressed against the window, looking for my precious clothes. But alas. They were never seen again.

Y'all. I had the clothes on my back. That was all. My darling gold culotte dress with the cunning little brown leather belt. My cocoa brown culottes (shut up, culottes were the RAGE) with the matching pink, brown and white striped sweater with the darling little cap sleeves. All my precious Bonnie Belle makeup. My many, many pairs of fabulous wedgie sandals. Gone. Gone. Gone.

It was probably the worst fashion experience of my life. Even worse than the time I got the blue jean skirt stuck on my hips in the dressing room and couldn't get it off and Liz had to help me. I still think about some of those clothes. And the person who must have picked up my suitcase. And kept my lovely clothes.

Curse them. May they get a blue jean skirt stuck on their hips in a dressing room and have nobody to help them and so they have to get someone to cut it off. Maybe even taking just a little tiny bit of skin with it.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

If You Give The Librarian A Bagel (With Apologies to Laura Numeroff)

If you give a librarian a bagel, she is going to want some cream cheese.

If you put cream cheese on the bagel, she's going to want a plate.

If you take the bagel with cream cheese on a plate to eat in the car on the way to work, she will want to balance it on top of the glass container of salad you are taking to work to share for lunch.

If you go around a corner JUST a little too sharply, the bagel plate will begin to slide towards the passenger door.

If you try to catch the bagel on a plate with one hand while driving with the other, your fingers will just catch the edge of the plate, but then it will sliiiiiiide off the salad container and plop down between the seat and the passenger door.

If you pull over and open the passenger door to try to rescue your breakfast, the plate will tip over and dump the bagel neatly onto the pavement at your feet.

If you feel very, very annoyed that your raisin cinnamon bagel with cream cheese is now bird food, cheer up.

School has not started yet. You can be a little late. You can get a cinnamon roll with icing on your way to work. You immediately cheer up.

If you give a librarian a cinnamon roll. Well...she's pretty happy. And she won't want that old bagel.

But if you give a librarian a bagel with cream cheese. Put it on a napkin. Maybe it won't make an escape that way.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

“Grandchildren are God's way of compensating us for growing old.”

-Mary H. Waldrip

I thought I understood how the other grandmother felt. How it must be so difficult for her, being so far away from her only grandchild. Only seeing him a few times a year. I put myself in her position and felt her pain and sorrow and my heart hurt for her. Or so I thought.

This weekend, she was in town for a visit. We didn't get to see Wes at all. Liz posted some photos on her blog yesterday. The other grandmother with the perfect boy. I have spent a lot of time with him this summer, so I feel especially close to him right now. Even more so than usual. And when I saw her holding him in her lap, I felt...sad is not a strong enough word. Anguish. Pain. My heart literally hurt in my chest. It HURT. I don't feel jealous. It's not that kind of pain. I am willing to share him. I know it's good for him to have lots of people who think he is the most perfect child on earth. But I missed him. I wanted to touch his face. Kiss his cheek and his neck. Hear him laugh. And it hurt that I couldn't.

And that's how she feels. Every day. Every single day.

I thought I understood how the other grandmother felt. But I was stupid. Stupid. I was smug in my understanding of her pain. I realize now I had no idea. I'm so sorry, Alice.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

You Spent HOW MUCH On Shoes?

I am FAR from an expert on investing. These are just the things I have learned and thought I would share with y'all. If any one bit of advice helps someone, I'll feel that this was worth writing.

I had lunch with one of my good friends the other day and, since it had been several months since we had a chance to talk, it was a four-hour lunch. Yep. Four hours. And we talked non-stop the whole time. The one thing that really stayed with me about our conversation was our talk about money and investments. She is helping her parents manage their estate and, since Tom and I have been through that fairly recently with his mom passing away, I gave her what little advice I could, based on what we have learned in the last few years. I was pretty impressed with myself when she made me stop talking so she could get a pen and paper from her purse and write down the advice I was giving her. So, I thought I'd write down some financial advice for y'all. So you don't have to get out pen and paper.

1. One of the teachers at my school and a good friend recommended to me years ago that I get disability insurance. I had never heard of it, knew nothing about it and was completely uninterested. But she opened my eyes about the possibility of something happening to me, all my sick days being used up and the bills still waiting to be paid. So, I got disability insurance for me and for Tom. We have not yet had to use it. But I'm still glad I have it.

2. Are you saving any money? What's that? You think you don't make enough to save? You have too many bills? Yeah, that's what I said for years and years and years. When Tom and I first got married, his parents recommended that we live on one salary and save the other. As soon as we left their house, we rolled our eyes at each other and chortled. We had way too many bills to pay and any extra money - well, we NEEDED that new stereo system with the reel-to-reel setup, right? No. We did not. We should have listened. Or, at the very least, paid a savings account before we paid ourselves. Ideally, have it taken out of our check before we ever got it. That's the best way to save. $10 out of each check may not seem like much, but it adds up fast and the interest compounds. That means (I'm at kindergarten level here - forgive me if you have millions invested in the stock market.) you make interest on your interest.

3. If your company offers a 401k, sign up now. Today. For teachers, this is a 403b. Some companies will match what you put in up to a certain amount. That is like found money. Teachers are laughing aloud here since that is never going to happen for us, but you can still have money put automatically into a 403b. That is TAX-FREE MONEY. Technically, it's tax-deferred because, until you take it out, you do not have to pay tax on it. So, not only are your compounding your interest, you are not paying tax on it. If you do not have a 401k or a 403b, set one up today. Today.

4. If you do not have a Roth IRA, go to the bank today and set one up. Today. Let me repeat that. Today. You can put up to $4,000 in if you are under 50 and $5,000 if you are over 50 for 2007. That does not mean you HAVE to put that much in. You can put in $50. Just start one. Because, people! This money is ALWAYS TAX-FREE. You will never, ever, ever have to pay tax on that money. Ever. This is the only investment vehicle that can say that. That's why the government only lets you put in such a comparatively small amount.

5. Once you get a pretty good amount of money in your savings account, you need to get some invested in the stock market. You want to be diversified, or have money in several different accounts with varying levels of risk, so you don't want ALL your money in the stock market. And you don't want to think in the short term when you invest in the stock market. In the long term, it's a good investment. Don't try to go out and pick stocks for yourself. Just go to a bank where you feel comfortable and know some people and use their free investment advice. Most banks have this, some offer more services than others. Look for one that actually has investment people who do that full-time. Now, let them advise you about setting up a mutual fund. A mutual fund is a fund that will contain various stocks and, sometimes, bonds, if you set it up that way. The fund will have a manager that will do all your investing for you. They will make the decisions about what to invest in and when to buy and sell. You just sit back and let your money grow and try not to have a stroke when you lose money one week. (I'm talking to you, Tom.)

6. If you have kids and think they might someday go to college, set up a 529 account with that same investment advisor. This is an account where you savings can grow for those college expenses and it is also tax-free, until you take the money out.

7. However. I have read several articles lately that emphasize you should plan for retirement BEFORE you plan for college, so plan accordingly. It is much more important that you have a comfortable retirement than your kids having money for college. That may sound very selfish, but look at this way. There are college loans available for students. There are no retirement loans. And how would you pay it back if there was? You won't be working! Your kids have plenty of time to pay back those college loans and they will certainly be glad they don't have to support you when you are retired. Or you could think about paying for part of their college, getting loans for part and letting them work (gasp!) for their spending money. These decisions will vary from family to family.

So, the bottom line is, save. Save now. Invest now. Even if you think you can't afford it.

Did you just buy a new pair of shoes? You can afford it.

Monday, August 6, 2007

"A Balanced Diet Is A Cookie In Each Hand."

Diet? Oh, yeah...I kinda forgot about that. I don't know why, every summer, I think I'm going to exercise and lose weight. I'm going to have all this time! I'm going to get up and exercise EVERY MORNING and then I'm going to eat healthy and swim and walk and eat some more healthy food and the pounds will just FALL OFF! But I never learn. It never happens. Because I am too lazy. And the refrigerator is RIGHT THERE. You get the idea. It's actually harder to lose weight in the summer than when I am working. And last week? Fuggedaboutit.

Tom sometimes complains that I don't cook enough. Bless his little heart. I cooked at home exactly one night last week. I had plans to go out to dinner every other night last week. I didn't plan it that way. (Oh, if only I could.) It just happened. Dinner with my sister and sister-in-law when my sister comes into town, dinner with a couple we have known for years, dinner with just happened. So, no cooking last week. And that means forget the diet. I know that, theoretically, you can eat healthy when you eat out. There actually are salads and vegetables and grilled meats on that menu. It is possible. But everything fried and crispy and covered with gravy and buttery and cheesy and lip-smackin' good is the stuff that is bad for you. Sigh. It's a conundrum. Eat healthy or eat delicious. Yeah, I know what you are going to say. It IS possible to do both. But I don't think most restaurants have come to the same conclusion. Have you ordered the vegetable side at most restaurants? It's that plastic broccoli, carrot and snap pea or green bean combination that is revolting.

You know what someone should do? Someone should open a Weight Watchers restaurant. Where everything is labeled on the menu with the points and everything is delicious and fresh and there are lots of vegetables and fresh fruit choices. It IS possible to have good, healthy diet food when you eat out. It's just not easy.

So, I'll try. I'll carefully check the menus and try to order something both good AND healthy. And now that I'm back at school? I'm sure I'm going to be able to exercise and diet. Not because I say that EVERY SINGLE YEAR. Because this year is going to be different.

Because I have that Yoga DVD. And that's going to make all the difference in the world.

Or maybe I can just wait and start next summer. I'm SURE it will be different next summer.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Neatest Girl In 8th Grade

Flash Back Friday

So, I was reading this post about her daughter's obsession with clothes over at Big Mama the other day and it got me to thinkin'. You know how obsessed I am with clothes, shoes, earrings and all the accoutrement's which go along with projecting my image as a hot, middle-aged librarian with a poochy tummy that I cleverly conceal by never, ever, under pain of death, tucking anything in. But what you may not realize is that I have always been this way. Always.

One of my fondest memories involves being selected and denoted as such in the junior high year book as the neatest girl in the 8th grade. Now, you might be a little confused about the definition of "neatest" unless you are a baby boomer, like me. Back then, neat did not mean neat as in "You have such a neat desk!" but neat as in cool and groovy. Yes, we actually said groovy back then. And we often said things were neat. I sometimes find myself saying something is neat even now. Not groovy so much, though. That would really date me. I might have had stick legs and bangs in junior high as my husband often reminds me when I find myself getting just a little cocky, but I was dressed to the nines. And that expression dates me so much that I guess I don't have to worry about ever saying groovy again.

I had dozens of little mini skirts and matching sweaters and - here's the important part - my knee socks ALWAYS matched my sweaters. I even remember someone commenting on that one time. "Wow, your knee socks always match your sweaters." Seriously. I'm not making that up. That someone actually said that or that I remember it. I can't remember 99% of my childhood, but I remember someone commenting on my knee socks. And I wore those Mary Jane shoes that everyone was wearing back then. In hindsight, they were incredibly ugly and looked ridiculous on junior high girls, but they were in style, they were cool and groovy and neat and, damn, we had to have them!

So, basically, I was the be-all and end-all of fashion in my junior high. And I was voted accordingly. It's all in my permanent record. I can show you the yearbook if you don't believe me.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Just A Little Pinch

So, I had a breast biopsy yesterday. For those of you who love me (and it is so very nice that there are SEVERAL of you), you don't have to gasp and grab your chest to quiet your faltering heart, it wasn't that kind of biopsy - it was a biopsy of a mole on my breast. My dermatologist found it during my yearly checkup with her. She asked me how long it had been there and if it had changed, because she had not made a note about it last year. I hesitated, then told her I thought it had been there for years and years and had never changed but, honestly? I wasn't really sure. I am very aware that one of the rolls on my stomach has gotten bigger this summer (damn you, iced sugar cookies from the bakery!) and I'm sure I have more cellulite dimples on my thighs, but that mole on my breast? That's just not an area I look at closely in the mirror that often.

She assured me that she thought it was fine, but it was a little irregularly shaped and a little red, so she wanted to do a biopsy just to make sure. I'm fine with making sure. I'm absolutely fine with it. I just wasn't too sure about a biopsy. The nurse reclined my table and pulled out the bottom part where your legs go and set up this little table with a clean white cloth and...a needle (A NEEDLE) and a small scalpel (A SCALPEL). The doctor came in and I wanted to ask if it would hurt but I felt like a baby asking that so I didn't. She picked up something from the table - I don't know what, I wasn't about to watch what she was doing to my breast - and said "Little pinch, little sting". And that's all it was. Then she touched me gently with one finger and said softly "Can you feel that at all?" And I said no and I guess she picked up the scalpel and cut a piece out of me because I just felt a little pressure and it was over. She put a little round band aid over it and they told me to keep it clean and covered and they will let me know the results next week but they are sure it is nothing.

So, here's the point of this post. I'm sure it's nothing. I trust her when she said it was nothing. But, if it was something? They will have found it very early and we will take care of it. And they found it early because I see a dermatologist every year for a checkup. Do you?

I actually went for the first time a couple of years ago because I was annoyed (not concerned, just annoyed) by this sun damage spot on my face. I was very surprised when the nurse told me to undress completely, down to my panties and put on a gown. I guess I thought she would look at my face and that would be it. But when you have a checkup with a dermatologist, they check you from head to toe. Every mole, every mark, everything. And they ask questions about them. And then they burn off whatever they don't like. Actually, I guess it's technically freezing it off but it burns like 1,000 suns directed through a magnifying glass onto my skin, so it seems like burning to me. The last time I was there, she burned off this rather large mole that had developed in my hairline (it wasn't actually a mole, but I forget what she called it. Something not dangerous, but large and annoying.) and when the frozen stuff hit that mole, it went right through my skin and into my brain and I think it burned a few brain cells because it hurt like holy hell. But then the mole peeled right off in a few days and it was worth it. And she told me I should have a checkup every year and my insurance would cover it. This time, she burned off that sun damage place on my face so now I have a lovely, swollen, mutant brown spot on the left cheek, just in time to go out for dinner with some friends.

So, the important thing is, if I have anything strange developing on my skin on any part of my body, she will find it. And take care of it. And that's very reassuring. I would be much more reassured if I knew that all my friends and family saw a dermatologist once a year for a checkup.

Do you? Then make an appointment right now. Right now.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Hello, My Name Is...

I have recently come to the conclusion that you never really know someone. Anyone. Even that person you are the closest to, your best friend, your sibling, your lover, your spouse. If you disagree, just try getting into a discussion with someone about something you feel strongly about, like a right to an abortion or gay marriage. You may find you don't really know them at all. Or even just making conversation with someone, you may find out something about their life you didn't know. Some private agony they are suffering that you never dreamed about. You can't tell that kind of thing by a hi, how are you? kind of conversation.

I say my prayers every night. Do you? It's surprising how many people do. This came up in a conversation with one of my friends recently and I was surprised to find that she prayed every night. That she was praying for some of the same people I was praying for. Maybe surprised isn't the right word, because she is a good person, but...slightly taken aback. Like maybe I thought I was the only person who did that. Which is dumb, I know. I pray every night. It's kind of silly because I say the same prayer I have been saying since I was a little girl...Now I lay me down to sleep. Then, I pray for my family and friends and for anyone who seems to need some extra help. I don't know if it helps. I know it makes me feel better.

But here's the thing. Just in idle conversation with my husband the other day, I asked him if he prayed. Now, we are not what you would call really religious people. We haven't been to church in years. Years. But you know what he said? Yes. Yes, he prays. He has been praying for our son to find a job just recently, since this has been a big issue for Mark. But the point I am trying to make is this. I didn't know Tom prayed. If someone had asked me, I would have said no. Definitely no. But he does.

So here's all I'm saying. I know Tom. I know I can count on him. I know he loves me. I know we are not going to get a divorce. But, apparently, I don't really know him.

Even when you think you know someone. You never really know someone. And I guess sometimes that can be a good thing. Because my husband prays. And I like that he does.

I like that he does.