Unbagging the Cats 1

Unbagging the Cats 1

Friday, September 30, 2011


"Anticipation...anticipaaaation...is makin' me late...is keepin' me waiaiaiai waiaitin'."

Show of hands. How many of you are old enough to remember those Heinz ketchup commercials?

The last thing I do before going out the door every morning is fill up my big plastic cup with ice from my freezer-door icemaker. The one that needed a coldecystectomy many weeks ago. Apparently, the poor dear has had a relapse. This morning I held my cup under the dispenser to the tune of a grinding grumble. My cup did not runneth over. My cup was emptier than Laugh-In-era Goldie Hawn's head at a nuclear energy symposium. Like the fourth little piggy, I had none.

Leaving without ice was not an option. I removed four Banquet $.88 dinners, then the ice-holding contraption. I hacked at it with a dull butter knife. A hack job to rival that of method-acting Anthony Perkins in Psycho. Some of the larger chunks went into my cup. I replaced the empty receptacle and the frozen feasts. I pushed the Extra Ice button until the green light came on. I would have a buttload of ice when I returned home this evening.

The Pony and I ran errands for two hours after school. We carried in our accumulated bounty. The Pony scampered outside to let Juno out of her pen to frolic. I dished up some canned puppy food. Once the important business was taken care of, I rinsed out my cup and bellied it up to the ice bar. Grinding. No ice.

Again, I removed the innards. The ice catcher was emptier that a Lowe's Home Improvement Store during the Super Bowl. Where was my extra ice? Where was any ice? Old Mother Hubbard's dog could not have been more disappointed than I. The injustice! Had I not lovingly tended the constipated patient just this morning?

Then I saw it. A cowlick of ice jutting up from the maker proper. A hydrologic stalagmite yearning to be cool like the crystals in Superman's Fortress of Solitude. Oh, little nubbin. Your dreams are big, but you are small. I cracked him dead center with the butt-end of the butter knife. He, like his dreams, shattered.

I set The Pony, after a good handwashing, with soap, to gathering errant ice cubes that had accumulated from other times the ice maker was under the weather. He searched along the back shelf. Under the battered fish. Behind the chicken strips. Amongst the frozen bagels. He harvested enough for me to keep my cool.

That was three hours ago. I anticipate a bumper crop for my next harvest.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Can Fit My Whole Foot in My Mouth

Sometimes people stare at me. And not in a manner meant to flatter.

Today, for instance. The Pony wanted to pick up a Little Caesar's Pizza, because Hick bowls on Thursdays, and I don't cook. I called it in on the way home, after picking up The Pony from academic team practice. Our pizza was still in the oven when we arrived. I paid. The Pony asked for two quarters from the change. He wanted to play a game that's like pinball, but with little rubber superballs. You win at least one superball every time. If you're good, you can win several. His selling point was: "A winner every time!"

I took his bottle of soda and stood at a counter by the window. The Pony finished his first game. "Here." He proffered the two superballs, a yellow and a black swirly design. "I can't put them in my pocket right now. I'm playing again." I held them in my left hand. The keys and the rest of the change were in my right hand. The counter girl announced that our pizza was ready. The Pony was in the midst of winning more superballs, so I went to pick up our order.

Crazy Bread and two garlic butters were balanced on top of the pizza box. With my hands full of superballs, keys, and change, I grasped at the pizza box like some circus lobster-claw lady. I got my clenched hands on opposite corners, and balanced the ungainly provisions with a forearm and my body. Good thing I had left the soda on the counter.

The Pony finished his game and pocketed two superballs, the same colors as the two I held. He grabbed the pizza and Crazy Bread out of my hands.

"It's about time! Do you know how hard it was for me to pick that up and carry it while I was (I held out my hand to show the superballs) busy holding your balls?"

Two twenty-something dudes turned to look at me. The Pony ducked his head and groaned. I grabbed the soda, and we made a grand exit. I'm not sure The Pony will ask for change again at Little Caesars.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

More Notes on my Recent Puppyfication

More facts have come to light concerning the sudden appearance of my new puppy, Juno. My mom sometimes leaves out details in her stories in favor of explaining how she went to town for a Sonic Diet Coke, and was worried that they would put too much ice in it again, so she thought of telling them "light ice" but forgot until she got to the window, where she saw the girl put two scoops of ice into her Route 44 cup, which was just right, so she didn't have to add any ice at home because it melted, or add more soda from a can because of too much ice, so you just never know, really, how the Sonic kid is going to make your soda. It depends on the kid.

By questioning her like a defense attorney, I garnered some pertinent facts. Juno the pup first darkened her doorstep last Monday. Mom refused to feed her. Or him, as Mom still refers to girly little Juno. "I know people always say that once you feed them, they won't leave. So I did not feed him. I thought he'd go away. But he didn't. When I went out to the garage to go to town for my Sonic soda, he was there. I was afraid I'd run over him. I said, 'Shoo! Shoo!' but he wouldn't leave. I picked up an empty plastic storage tub and put it over him until I came back. That way I didn't run over him. It got so bad that I didn't want to go out my front door, because he was there, looking up at me. I snuck out the sliding glass doors to walk up to my mailbox. And when he saw me, he barked! He barked at ME! I live there, not him! I started to get worried on Wednesday. I didn't want to feed him. But Genius came out after school. And he really liked that pup. I got conly (that's her way of saying kind of) afraid that he might die. So I gave him some bread soaked in bacon grease, and some milk. He really gobbled that up. And he really liked Genius. He followed him all around the yard. When Genius left, I made a little bed out of a cooler and an old afghan. Genius said he would try to find somebody to take him."

You see? She wasn't consciously planning to starve that little pup to death. She just thought he'd go somewhere else. I called her out on this one.

"Have you ever seen An Officer and a Gentleman? Zack Mayo wants to fly jets. He has no family except a drunk, womanizing father. Zack is not a team player, and kind of a con man. During basic training, he gets caught selling polished shoes and belt buckles before inspection. Louis Gossett Jr. punishes Zack all weekend. Zack does pushups with his face in a mud puddle. He runs in place with a rifle over his head, while Louis Gossett Jr. sprays him in the face with a water hose. Louis Gossett Jr commands Zack to DOR. Zack refuses. Over and over, as he is laying on a concrete slab holding his feet off the ground. Louis Gossett Jr. says, 'All right. You're out.' And Zack Mayo cries, 'Don't you do it! I got nowhere else to go!'

"That pup is Zack Mayo. Where else did you think he would go? If he had anywhere else to go, he wouldn't be at your house, eating no food, being shut up under a Rubbermaid tub, and eagerly awaiting your appearance, even though you shunned him dreadfully. What were you thinking?"

She thought for a minute. "I don't know. He kept getting thinner, and I thought, 'I don't want the little thing to die. I've got to give him something.' So I made him that grease bread."

I didn't want her to feel bad. But seriously. How did she think a puppy was going to feed itself? Perhaps this will educate her for the next animal young 'un that gets dumped in her yard.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Getting to Know Me, Getting to Know All About Me

I have a class in which the students are desperately seeking personal information. They don't seem to have an ulterior motive. They are simply trying to categorize me so that they may find a way to make sense of my eccentricities. I think.

During the guided practice portion of the lesson, or, for you lay people, the worksheet, one will thoughtfully pose a question. After all ruminate on the response, another will venture an inquiry. I am not above pulling a collective leg or two. It goes a little something like this:

"Where did you go to college, Mrs. Thevictorian?"

"I went to Southwest Missouri State University. SMSU. But it doesn't exist now. They changed their name after I graduated. I was that smart. The whole college had to change its identity. Now it goes by Missouri State."

They looked at each other, foreheads wrinkled like so many adorable Shar-Pei puppies. The unofficial spokesman called my bluff. "No. Really. Where did you go to college?"

"Why do you want to know? Are you insinuating that I never went to college? That I, perhaps, obtained my diploma from some South American paper-mill by mail-order?"

"What year did you graduate?"

"I bet you'd like to know. Because even with rudimentary math skills, I'm pretty sure you could deduce my age with that statistic." I like to increase their word power. Spokesman kept up.

"Give us a range. Within ten years."

"Why? So you can get fake credentials and write the college and ask for a copy of my transcripts? I don't think so."

"How about your social security number?"


"A blood sample?"

"No. You don't need to be analyzing my DNA."

"We don't even need a blood sample. All we need is a strand of hair. Or two."

"I think I'll feel it if you pull out my hair."

"All we need is something you've touched. We can get your water bottle that you throw away at lunch."

"Go for it."

"Actually, we have a source. All we have to do is ask your son."

"Bwah, ha, ha! He'll never tell. That boy likes to eat!"

"We'll get back to you."

Today Spokesman entered the class with a statement. "I know how old you are. My source told me you are XX years old. And you just proved it. You are XX years old."

"I'm not sure how I proved it. I did not even have a chance to respond. But I can tell you with certainty that I am most definitely not XX years old. I will pass a polygraph if necessary. Your source must be sadly misinformed."

"Well, that settles it. You are XX years old."

I suppose he was trying some kind of wacky reverse psychology. Unsuccessfully. I have a feeling that the source is ANONYMOUS. Because the age he quoted was a good seven years under my true age. Maybe I should consider myself lucky that they didn't want to cut me open and count my rings.

Monday, September 26, 2011

At Home with the Smartypants Family

If you have dipped your toe more than once into the pool of blog posts that trickle from Val's life, you know that I am raising a family of nerds. They come by it honestly. You can't take the valedictorian out of Val. Unless you're the obstetrician, who took two new valedictorians out of Val. Hopefully.

Friday night, when most kids were out cruising around town, or pepping up a football game, or getting into minor trouble...my boys were home on the couch. Taking a pocket IQ test.

It all started when The Pony went to his room to search for a doggy DNA kit that the boys got for Christmas. They're kind of sciencey, my guys. They had neglected to soak it with dog spit from the black German Shepherd mix and send it off. So now their thoughts turned to the new puppy, and what she might look like when she grows up. The Pony found the IQ test next to the DNA kit.

There was a minor kerfuffle as Genius threatened The Pony that HE would be taking it first, so hand it over. The Pony was unfazed. He had already taken it when he got it. So Genius could IQ to his heart's content. But The Pony was going to monitor the test. Time it. Make sure Genius did not look up info on his phone.

I thought Genius was going to have a breakdown when I called him to supper in the middle of the test. "Hey, it's a timed test. Put it down, check the time, and resume when you are finished eating." Great Googley Moogley! It's not rocket science. Perhaps this inability to determine how to take a break from a timed test did not bode well for the final smarts tally.

When all was said and done, Genius reported that he had scored a 136. He wanted me to take it. Which I will, in my own good time. I told him so. But not before I reminded him that I had scored a 142 on the online test that we all took at Grandma's house after Christmas dinner a couple of years ago. That took a little starch out of him. Needlessly. It's not like these are reliable tests.

He might as well hitch his medical school wagon to a star if he wins a game of Operation.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Val Sticks it to Big Business

Once again, I sit on the horns of a dilemma. Or maybe my Sharpie was removed from my desk by some prankster, and placed upon my chair.

I might be a softened criminal.

The Pony and I went to Walmart this morning. Because all chore and no play makes The Pony and Val very dull customers indeed, we picked up Bridesmaids on Blu-ray, and a Civilization V PC game. Once in the car, The Pony searched the bags for his game, and asked how much it cost. He thought it was $29.95, but said he would give me $40.00 because it would be easier for him. Spoken like a boy who has too much disposable income and not enough cash transaction experience.

I scanned the receipt to give him the price, and an estimation of the tax. But I could not find his game. I passed the receipt to him, and told him the game and DVD were stacked together, right next to the birthday cards that we bought. The Pony could not find the game or DVD on the receipt.

I'm thinking that the checker ran them through the dealybobby that keeps them from setting off the shoplifting alarm at the door, and put them in the bag instead of dragging them across the money-charging part. Therein lies my dilemma.

I am not above sticking it to the Walton family empire. Consider it payback for putting Mom & Pop stores out of business, for monopolizing the retail trade in small towns, for not buying American, for jacking up prices by 50% over the past two years, for getting me hooked on a product and then discontinuing it so I have to buy their Great Value/Sam's Choice/Equate alternatives, for all the kid's shoes that came unglued, the shirts that unraveled, onions and potatoes that were rotten when I got them home, the hamburger injected with water, the deli chicken tenders that proved to be breaded bread with a tiny sliver of meat inside, and for allowing the woman ahead of me to get a cash refund on two open DVDs with no receipt or ID, but refusing to allow me, with receipt and ID in hand, to exchange an open computer game for one of equal value that did not require internet access. Poor Sam must be spinning in his grave at the debacle his heirs have created with his company.

What I do NOT want to happen is for the checker to get stuck with the discrepancy. Like when a creep drives off without paying for gas, and the cashier has to pay. So what I need to know is, does Walmart track this de-beeper thingy and correlate it to the receipt? Hick says no, that they won't even know the items are gone until inventory doesn't match up.

So now you know. Val's altruism has strings attached. I don't want the individual to suffer economic hardship, but I don't give a rodent's posterior if the corporation takes a hit to the tune of $55.00. The corporation will just cheat somebody else (probably me, over the next several years) and make it up. Whereas the individual might not be able to afford gas for the week. Or Sonic sodas!

Besides, I can't exactly waltz in with a game and DVD, complaining that I did not pay for them and want to pay now. That's going to raise some red flags. Because it's not normal customer behavior these days. Fifty years ago, maybe. But not now. And if I take in my receipt to show the day and time and checker, won't that get the checker in trouble? Will they think we're in cahoots, and she did that on purpose for a kickback? Or that she's getting senile, and needs her hours cut back?

What say you? I know Kathy of the Kampground used to work in Walmart's pharmacy. Maybe she has some insider information. Anybody else with retail experience? All I know is from when I worked part-time at Casey's General Store. The cashier ate the drive-off expenses. Supposedly that made them more vigilant, though short of chasing a speeding car away from the pumps like a neurotic dog, in an effort to get a clear view of the license plate while leaving the register unattended, I don't know what we could have done.

My pharmacy made an error last year, and did not charge me for two prescriptions. I stopped by the next day and settled up. Because I know that drugs are controlled seven ways to Sunday, and they would just bill me for the difference. The clerks were ecstatic that I came back. They said most people would not, and that the error would have been caught during an audit. I didn't go back just because I knew the mistake would be found out. The pharmacy regulars are nice folks, and I didn't want any harsh repercussions to befall them. I do not feel the same way about Walmart. Even though that particular checker is one of the friendliest, I have no qualms about skating on my uncharged fees, as long as the checker is not held responsible. Losers, weepers, and all that. I believe my good-to-bad karma ratio exceeds that of Walmart.

Funny how you perceive yourself to be a moral person, then some petty business like this proves you wrong.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

More Puppy Business

Our new puppy is settling in. She has been named Juno, for the Roman chief goddess and female counterpart of Jupiter. My boys luuurrrrrve them some mythology.

Hick decreed that Juno will spend her nights in an old rabbit hutch converted to a setting hen/chick hutch. I opined that such a banishment seemed downright cruel, but Hick asked if I would rather have Juno eaten by coyotes overnight. Um. No.

The hutch has a wooden box that opens onto a wire mesh rectangular enclosure with a self-feeding canister and a water dish. The whole contraption is a high-rise affair, about four feet off the ground. Juno has her wooden bedroom to keep her dry and warm, with the afghan sent by Grandma as a soft mattress. Then she has her wire patio for lounging/eating/drinking/peeing/pooping. She chowed down on cat food last night and tonight. I'll get her some puppy chow when I do the weekly shopping.

The Pony checked on her around 7:30 this morning, before going to work at the band car-show fundraiser. Genius let Juno out at 10:00, to frolic about the grounds until he left at 2:00. At that point, he put her in the chicken pen proper. The chickens don't hang out there anymore, since the dogs stopped mass-murdering them when they free-range. It's actually a double dog pen that now has a grassy carpet and access to the chicken house in case of rain. The only chickens in the house are those who want to set. Which is one black biddy on two eggs.

Juno had a blast during morning playtime. She wrestled a stick, rolled on her back to bat a lilac leaf like a cat with a ball of yarn, took a power nap in the sun behind her pet-carrier chariot that brought her home, and explored the front porch. Genius sat on the top step to puppysit, just in case the big dogs turned on Juno.

Genius put his hand out to pet her head, and Juno stood up on her scrawny back legs to chew on his fingers. She let a tiny back foot slip over the edge of the step, and thump-thump-thump-thumped down the remaining four stairs to the brick sidewalk. From there, she hung her head and retreated to the lilac bush in shame. Genius followed her and coaxed her back.

Up on the porch, Juno discovered her first cat. She growled! Which was entirely too cute, coming from her tiny body. Then she galloped after the cat, barking. When he stopped and gave a sarcastic glance over his shoulder, Juno stopped and sat down. And pretended that she was not the one barking and chasing him. She sideways romped in the other direction, to offend Ann, the black shepherd mix, who gave her a good growling for her trouble. Juno pinballed back, only to accost the other male cat, an orange tiger-striped fellow. He yawned, twitched his tail, and shot Ann a look over Juno's head. A look much like Hick and the OB nurse exchanged over my head after a half-syringe of Stadol took effect during my 14-hour labor with Genius.

Ann retired to the sunny back porch for a nap. Juno followed. She committed a major canine faux pas by picking up the sunbleached bone which Ann ignores until 5:30 every morning, at which time she carries it around the porch and drops it to wake me from my chair nap while I wait for Hick to finish his shower. It's not a tasty bone. It's the polished shinbone of a deer. For all the flavor it has, it might as well be Bluebeard's tibia, sandblasted by the beach for a couple hundred years. Ann growled some more. Genius took the coveted skeletal treat and gave it back to Ann.

"She would never have picked up that bone again. Except that Juno wanted it. So she had a fit."

"Just like you and The Pony, where toys are concerned."

Juno is going to be a good fit for our pack.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Won't you. Open up your heart. And home. To a little fella like me?


A pup came to her front porch.
On a mild, mild day, and she in faded blue jeans for the Fall,
To eat there.

In the cool, gray-concrete shade of the woman's front porch.
She came out the door with her straw broom.
And did wait, did stand and wait, for there he was, on the porch before

He looked up from his sad-eyes at the grandma in the door
And squirmed his velvet-black cuteness round-bellied up over the edge of
the porch step
And rested his throat upon the step bottom,
And where her blue Croc had stepped through the door, with a small whimper,
He licked with his soft mouth,
Deftly chewed on her old shoe, whipping his tail so quickly,


My mother found a puppy on Wednesday morning. Or he found her. Darn those people who dump pets on rural roads like so much unwanted trash. She refused to feed him. "I don't want him to stay. I don't want to get attached. If I don't feed him, he'll go somewhere else."

Wednesday night, she caved. She gave him a Cool Whip plastic tub of milk, and some bread soaked in bacon grease. She made a bed from a sideways Styrofoam cooler, and lined it with an old afghan. Red and orange and white and brown.

Genius stopped by to kill some time between the cancellation of his robot team practice and a school volleyball game. He befriended Pup. He made a video on his phone. He showed students and teachers at school the next day. They tsk-tsk'd Val in the hall. "I can't believe you won't let your son have a puppy." Not that he had even asked.

Genius declared that Pup was SO CUTE. And since our 12-year-old dog died last August, we were really one dog short. And besides, he's a boy, Mom, and you said you wanted another dog, and Grandma can't keep him.

I had to run the proposal by Hick, because Genius didn't dare hope. Hick relented. So I picked up Pup today after my Inservice Day. I called Hick and told him he needs to sit down with Genius and have The Talk.

Pup is a girl. Genius is a master manipulator.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Goldilocks Returns With a Vengeance

The madness continues. Rogue Goldilocks can't just give a Secret Shopper review of the porridge and settle down for a nap. No. She has to mess with my stuff. Some more. I was starting to think that the scene that greeted me Wednesday morning was a figment of my overactive, conspiracy-theory-friendly imagination. Maybe pens cap themselves, and correction fluid pens shed their brand markings and grow new ones. Chairs walk twelve inches to be closer to other furniture. They've got four legs, you know. What are they supposed to do, let them atrophy? Laptops turn themselves off, don't they? Mine hasn't done that for two years, ever since all district computers were set to shut down at 5:00 p.m. But it could happen.

This morning, the carnage was worse. ALL of my pens had the caps placed over the writing end! My teacher texts were askew. My scissors in the top desk drawer were laying in the pencil trough. And a black calculator from the back of another drawer was topping my favorite purple Texas Instrument. My spare shoes were displaced, like they had taken a jog around the room. But wait! A most shocking sight rattled the windows to my soul. A Puff-With-Aloe lay on top of the trash in my small, deskside wastebasket. A Puff-With-Aloe covered with four red lipstick smudges. YIKES! Val and lipstick do not interface.

I asked Colleague if she was pranking me. She laughed. "You are too territorial. I think you're just crazy. Why don't you set a trap and see who you catch?" Hmpf! So much for nurturing me. You'd think twelve years of colleaguedom would amount to more. Did I ridicule her when, after seven years in the district, the music teacher mistook her for a cook? Well...yes, I did. But did I poke fun at her when she complimented a girl on her pirate goatee at the Halloween dance, and the girl's friend hung back and informed her that it wasn't part of the costume, and that the poor little gal was sensitive about her facial hair? Um...yes, I did. But still. Colleague should have more empathy.

Because these invasions of my control center are driving me crazy, I went straight to the person who would know. This afternoon I asked the custodian if anybody had been using my room after I left. It's the first room down the hall from the main entrance. It's not behind the double doors that are locked during sporting events. It has been commandeered for other functions before. Custodian said no. She assured me that she wipes down my desk with her bleach rag (note to self: find out when I became unclean), and that she might bump things on occasion. But a bleach rag would not put the caps on my pens, nor blot its bleachy, raggy lips with a Puffs-With-Aloe. I assured Custodian that I did not think it was her. After all, she's been doing this job for six weeks now. Surely she could not curtail her urges to mess with my stuff for that long, only to give in this week. No. I did not wish to put her on the defensive. But she's the key-master. Anybody wanting into my room would have to ask her. Perhaps a ticket-taker for the volleyball games needed some correction fluid to grade papers during down time. Or had to freshen up her makeup because taking tickets is such a demanding task.

I told Custodian that I suspected several faculty of pranking me. That one incident had happened at 8:00 a.m., a time when Custodian is not even in the building. She agreed. Somebody must pranking me. She went about her merry way, not touching other Who's ink pens as she cleaned other Who's classrooms.

As I gathered my things to leave, I knocked my large cup of water off the desk. The lid popped off, and pieces of ice left from this morning scattered like dice out of a Yahtzee cup. Sweet well water surged outward from my desk. I hustled to grab the last of my home paper towels from the cabinet. They didn't absorb much of Lake Shame. I ran (okay, I walked at a normal pace) to the workroom and cranked out some school paper towels, known more for their likeness to printer paper than their quicker-picker-upper technology.

I tossed down the industrial paper towels, and was shocked to see the extent of Lake Shame. Waves crashed under the table, heading for the back, unreachable wall. I swear I saw whitecaps. A national forest of paper products could not soak up Lake Shame. The clock was ticking. The Pony awaited me in the schoolyard across town. I hastily scribbled a note for Custodian. "I spilled some water under my desk. Be careful not to slip. It's just water. It will evaporate by Monday."

I fear she will think I set a trap to catch her messing with my desk.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Somebody's Been Sitting in My Chair

I fear there is a rogue Goldilocks on the loose. I don't have any concrete clues, but I have circumstantial evidence. To whit: stuff in my room appears to have been tampered with. There. I said it. I'm letting the crazy out for all to read.

My fellow hall-dwellers know that I'm a persnickety old gal. I like my things JUST SO. Don't go moving my cheese. Neither a borrower nor a borrower be. But if you want to loan something to me, that's fine. I'm not a sharing kind of person. Not that I didn't try. Once.

Years ago, I left a pencil in my mailbox. Because you never know when you're going to need one while in the teacher workroom. It was a unique pencil, maroon, with some kind of at-risky quote on it. I picked it up at a conference at Tan-Tar-A. That communal pencil lasted all of two days. So I set a trap to catch the thief. I taped an identical pencil to a sheet of paper with a message. "Have you seen my brother? He looks just like me. I miss my twin. Please let him come home. Please." I found that one lodged in a particular teacher's mailbox the next day. I snatched him back. And told my colleagues that Peter Peter Pencil Pilferer was the reason we couldn't have nice things.

This morning I arrived to find my room in disarray. Not so anybody else would notice. But I did. A spare chair behind my desk that holds a carboard box of textbook accoutrements was pushed against the table that holds the printer, phone, sound box, VRC, and DVD player. Normally, there is a twelve-inch gap. Not that I measure it. A tile is twelve inches, you know. And the spare shoes that I keep under that chair, in the event that I want to slip into something more comfortable through the day, were jammed all the way past the chair, and under the table! But that's not all! I think I'm feeling faint. My red Sharpie had the cap placed on the end! I never do that. Sharpie is always ready for slashing.

But the most disturbing discovery was my BIC Wite-Out pen. NOT THERE! I had just used it the previous afternoon. I searched high and low. Perhaps it fell off the desk with nobody around and no wind and no earthquake tremors. Perhaps I had put it in my bag. Perhaps it slid to the back of the pencil tray. No. I checked all those places. But I did find my very old Liquid Paper correction pen. I much prefer it anyway, but it's so old that it doesn't work well. Since I needed correcting STAT, I shook. And shook. Because it was so old that the paint stirring metal ball thingy was not even clicking. I whacked it on the desk and commenced to shaking again. When I tried to correct, that runny pre-correction fluid dribbled out. That stuff is clear. So I had to let it dry and go back over it a few minutes later. I placed the replacement pen in the front pencil tray built into the desk drawer. Right where I had put the BIC yesterday. I'm a creature of habit, in case you haven't heard.

I ran up to the workroom to make some copies. I only had five minutes to spare. At the bell, I told a down-the-hall colleague about my experience. She rolled her eyes. We go way back. She's the kind of teacher who wouldn't even care if another came and took her laptop to use on a day when she was absent. I know! I sometimes think I need to check her pulse. Nobody can be that laid back.

I started class. We had a short discussion of yesterday's lesson. I went over today's lesson. I gave the assignment. I busied myself with some busy work while they completed their papers. I reached into my desk drawer for the anemic old Liquid Paper pen, and HE WAS GONE! But even stranger, two slots back, was the BIC Wite-Out pen!!! Just like he never left.

I know someone is messing with me. Those are two totally different correction pens. The BIC is white and yellow. The Liquid Paper is white and green. Their pregnant belly shapes are different, too. The BIC is thick and clunky. Liquid Paper is more streamlined and easy to squeeze.

My mom says the mind is the first thing to go. I say somebody's been sitting in MY chair. And helping herself to my correction pens.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mrs. Nice Guy Don't Pay Too Good

With about twenty-five minutes left before first bell, I decide to run some copies this morning. The workroom was dark, meaning that nobody had been moving in there for the last ten minutes, and the timer had shut off the light. I churned out ninety one-siders. I opened two reams of paper and stoked drawer one for my imminent onslaught of copies. I ran ninety double-siders. And was summarily joined by a colleague bearing pages.

"Do you need copies?"

"Yes. When you're done." 

"Very many?"

"Fifty singles and fifty two-sided." 

"Are they for today?"

"Uh huh. It's my test." 

"As soon as these are done, you can go ahead."

"No, I don't want to interrupt." 

"Go ahead. I don't need mine until Thursday."

"That's so nice. Are you sure? I can wait." 

"No. Go ahead."

Colleague put her copies on when mine were done. I shuffled my papers over to the cluttered mailbox staging area, and loitered. No need to go back to my room. Her copies wouldn't take long. Then I could resume. As the Kyocera spit out the last ten copies, two more colleagues walked in, separately, also bearing papers.

"Are you both here for copies?"

"Uh huh," replied the first one. The other busied himself with the broken Xerox. Heh, heh. Like he thought it was going to work. It will sometimes be coerced into squeezing out a single copy at a time. Then it jams. Once cleared, it will give you another single copy. Kind of time-intensive.

"I'm almost done, but Val let me go ahead of her. Thanks so much, Val."

"I'm done. I'll try second hour. If it still works." I gathered my clutter and set out for my classroom. Because I'm not going to be THAT teacher. The one who monopolizes the copier with consumables that won't be used until the twelfth of never. Or May. The most immediate need gets the copier, in my world. The early bird can share the worm. So what if my best laid plans went awry? I refuse to be responsible for students sitting idle because their work is not ready. I'm sure if they could, they would thank me for their tests being hot off the copier. Warm, blank forms eager to assess their knowledge.

The down side is that I wasted viable lesson-staging time by foolishly waiting to regain control of cantankerous Kyocera. Kid-free time. When concentration is possible. Surely the universe will level my playing field. Karma for Mrs. Nice Guy.

Unless this event was payment for my non-injurious face-plant onto the basement floor on Friday.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I Toil, You Make Trouble

In my next life, I'd like to be a weatherman. That's right. A meteorologist. On TV. Because you don't really have to do anything that you're held accountable for. It's not like your job depends on how twenty-five seventeen-year-olds answer thirty-one multiple-choice questions about the structure of a cell's phospholipid bilayer, and facilitated diffusion, and what happens to a cell in a hypotonic solution compared to what happens to a cell in a hypertonic solution, and the difference between smooth and rough endoplasmic reticulum, and the relationship between deoxyribonucleic acid and ribonucleic acid during transcription.

Yeah. Let's see you go on TV and teach THAT, you namby-pamby weatherpeople! I'm talkin' to YOU, Cindy Preszler. And YOU, Dave Murray. And even you, Steve Templeton, whose name I had to look up because, well, you Channel 4 weathermen are just so nondescript. I could stand in front of a camera and "predict" the high tomorrow to be 78 degrees. And I could do it without even glancing at any weather data. It's not brain surgery. Nor rocket science.

I went outside for my parking lot duty this morning, and stood in the drizzle of the clear skies that were supposed to be in the area after 5:00 a.m. I dressed my child in shorts and a lightweight shirt because the high of 78 would make him too warm in jeans. I planned to advance the pot of chili I wanted for supper to Wednesday night, and a cooler evening. Imagine my surprise when I walked out for afternoon parking lot duty under dark clouds and 67 degrees.

But don't you worry about me, you high-dollar chief meteorologists. I'm just fine. My bubbling cauldron of chili brought joy to my household on this unforeseen dreary day.  I wish I could share the recipe. But it is never the same twice. Genius was called out of his room for a tasting. "This is perfect! Don't add anything else. Do you hear me? Don't change it!" He must be onto my cooking techniques. He is, after all, the one to tell me I'm some kind of short-temper cook.

Chili just evolves. This time I threw in two cans of chili beans, and one can each of dark red kidney beans, pinto beans, baked beans, and blackeyed peas. I added a can of tomato sauce with garlic and basil, a can of diced tomatoes, and an envelope and a half of McCormick chili seasoning. A buttload of hamburger, from Save A Lot's own butcher, and a diced fried onion went in next, and were showered with some coarse black pepper. Then things really got interesting. It was time for dashes and spritzes. Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, hickory BBQ sauce, ketchup, Heinz 57, and Frank's Original Red Hot Sauce. Thanks, Frank. The piece de restistance was the addition of four packets of Splenda. You know, in case the ketchup and BBQ sauce didn't add enough sugar.

Contrary to what my students might tell you, there was nary an eye of newt nor toe of frog in my cauldron.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Is Somebody Trying to Tell Me Something?

This evening I stepped out the basement door to dump the dehumidifier bucket. When I turned to go in, I was startled by a six-inch walking stick. He clung to the gray metal door, defying gravity, a big brown fellow with six legs and a twig-like body. The internets tell me he's a male, because of his color. Females have a reddish tint. And young 'uns are green.

It's a bit creepy to see these things when you aren't expecting them. He could have dropped to the ground and scurried inside, with me being none the wiser. For all I know, he's still out there. Genius was puttering around looking for pictures to take for his Project 365. I offered up my new best friend, but he declined. Like he already had a walking stick pic. Pshaw! That boy doesn't know what he's missing. I know what I'M missing...a picture for my blog. So I will have to show you this lighter-colored, horizontal one from Google images:

I also saw a walking stick at school last week. On the door going into the building. A gray door. Same position, head up, middle of door. That one was about five inches, and the same brown color. What's up with the walking sticks? I tried to find out if they are harbingers of anything. Like the woolly worms and winter. Or the persimmon seeds and winter. But apparently walking sticks don't predict weather. That's because they are too busy doing another job:

West Indian folklore professes that God rides from place to place on a walking stick. The walking stick is called a God-Horse. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Unbreakable Val Thevictorian

I had a little mishap last night at 10:10. I retired from my computer with the intent of watching a little big-screen TV. Hick and The Pony had already turned in for the evening. Genius was not yet home from a birthday bash at his ex-girlfriend's house.

The first thing on my agenda was to return my baggie of melted knee-ice to the freezer compartment of the basement mini-fridge. You remember the knee ice, don't you? To chill the joint mice in my crunchy, bursitisy knee? I shuffled through the narrow walkway between the gun case that harbors the cheap guns that Hick is OK with burglars taking in hopes that they won't look for the good stuff, and the mini-fridge under the stairs. Stacked beside the gun case, across from the mini-fridge, are approximately thirteen empty cardboard soda cases. That's because The Pony, our soda stocker, has been remiss in his handling of cardboard trash since last Christmas. You'd think that once we took the Christmas tree down in July, he would have gotten on the stick and stuck those boxes in a giant trash bag and hauled them to the bard field for burning. Because that's how we do it here in the hinterlands. We burn our cardboard. I figure it's no worse for the environment than adding it to our dumpster and requiring Waste Management to spend extra gas money and landfill space on it.

I had just passed the mini-fridge, and was about to reach for the door when it happened. My red-Croc-encased foot hit a wrinkle in the throw rug that The Pony must have placed there for his own knee comfort during soda-stocking. The wrinkle snagged on a cardboard corner and brought my foot to an abrupt halt. Which was bad news for my body, which continued forward. I did not have time for my life to flash before my eyes. Only the thought: I can't fall; I'll get hurt.

But fall I did. Face first. Onto the tile-covered concrete basement floor. A blue vinyl beanbag sometimes used by The Pony or Genius to play X-Box games was to my left. I missed it completely. I landed on my knees and elbows. My forearms were fortunate to land on the braided toenail rug. That's a whole other story, the toenail rug. I think I posted it here early on.

Like a tree falling in an abandoned forest, I was bereft of people to hear my sound. Hick, with his breather strapped on his muzzle upstairs at the other end of the house, would never know that I was beached on the basement floor. The Pony, above and at the back of the house, covers his head when he hits the sack. Something about hearing and seeing strange things afoot after dark. I did not bother to shout, "I've fallen, and I can't get up!" It would only waste my strength.

A quick mental inventory revealed that all systems were working. But I had plummeted right out of my Crocs. Yes. I'm one of those people who wear Crocs with socks. But not out in public. Therein lay the dilemma. I could not gain purchase on the slick tile floor with my socks. In addition, the toenail rug had scooted into a wrinkly series of mountains and valleys when I pitched forward and slid like a go-ahead run over home plate in the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series. So when I tried to stand, the rug under my hands moved forward, and my sock feet slid backwards. Not at all conducive to rising, though a good abs workout if repeated.

I deduced that the only way to regain my footing was to crawl across the Toenail Rug Mountain Range to the base of Sofa Peak. In that location, my sock feet would find purchase in the foothills, and my hands could provide leverage from the summit of Sofa Peak. Once righted, I hobbled to the recliner to recuperate.

I am pleased to report that my bones are not as brittle as those of The Pony, who has broken both elbows in two separate falls at school. One on a tile hallway floor, and the other on concrete steps. Reports of my osteoporosis have been greatly exaggerated. The accident could have had far worse results. I did not knock myself unconscious. Nor did I knock out my teeth, break my nose, shatter a wrist, or dislocate a shoulder. Perhaps my thick padding saved me from anything more than painful contusions to both patellae. A surveillance video might have depicted a toppling Stay Puft Marshmallow woman. Thank goodness Hick has not gone the hidden camera route.

When he returned from a morning visit to Grandma's house, and an afternoon bowling league, The Pony gathered up all the cardboard. He felt great sadness over his unintentional role in the incident, though I assured him his helpful habits far outweigh any harm that never came from my tumble. Genius also appeared to exhibit sympathy when informed of the felling of his maternal unit. Hick offered hugs, while stating matter-of-factly that indeed, he would never hear me if such a thing were to happen again. My mom was beside herself worrying over what might have happened. When she picked up The Pony this morning, she insisted on seeing the damage. Only then did she stop offering to take me to the hospital to be checked out.

I am moving slowly on my knotty knees, a bit like a potato with toothpick legs. The bag of knee-ice water was uninjured, even though it was crushed under my left forearm in the accident. It spent the night in the mini-fridge freezer and lives to soothe again.

Friday, September 16, 2011

My Kingdom for Some Trifocals

I allowed myself a respite from work on Thursday. Such a reward was in order, if I do say so myself. Because I worked a solid four hours after lunch without a break, I took twenty minutes after school to browse the internet before finishing up my paper-grading and copy-running for the day. All work and no play makes Val a dull gal. But not dull enough to type such a thing over and over and call it a novel like Jack Torrance in The Shining.

I do not partake of the blog world at school. Google news keeps me informed of all manner of goings-on in the outside arena. I perused the headlines. That's how I obtain my vast knowledge of the drama taking place on the world stage. But it's the offbeat story that I click on to get the juicy details. Ms. Google and I gossip like next-door neighbors having a cup of coffee over the kitchen half-door.

Then I saw it. A most tantalizing headline: Woman Sickened by Furries at McDonald's Dies.

What was this all about? So many questions flooded my head as I clicked and waited for the page to load. This was serious. A death due to furries! Maybe people will think twice now about wearing those costumes out in public. Everyday people do not need to be exposed to the fetishes of the few. And to think that folks worry about a child seeing something pervy like that. Now a grown woman was so disgusted that she expired. Was she shocked at the sight, perhaps, and fainted, hitting her head on the tile floor? Did she choke on her McChicken upon spying some inappropriate hanky-panky between consenting furries? Was a deadly microbe ingested or inhaled after exposure to the unsanitary faux fur of a furry?

My page came up. Woman Sickened by Furries at McDonald's Dies. What? An eighty-year-old woman was found unconscious in the bathroom of a Georgia McDonald's after apparently inhaling furries. HUH? Oh. After apparently inhaling fumes! Well, then. That's a little different.

Never mind.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

All Signs Point to MOMO

If a tree falls in the back yard, and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

I don't know. Because I wasn't there to hear it. I didn't even know that it fell until this morning, when The Pony and I backed the Tahoe out of the garage. We always glance into the back yard, just in case there's a cat-and-rabbit game going on. Our cats kill more rabbits than Tank the Beagle. We know we won't observe a chickenfest, because we leave before the chickens unroost. Only the guineas are on the prowl at 6:50 a.m. And they're up to no good. I loathe a guinea with the white-hot heat of 10,000 Seinfelds loathing Newman.

Our blighty oak must have taken a hit during yesterday's storms. Funny that it was intact when we arrived home at 5:10 p.m. The heavy rains and thunder were almost over by then. Dish Network was not even interrupted during the Survivor premiere and Big Brother finale. So I know that a downpour was not the cause. Winds were only 10-15 mph. I would have heard the sharp report of a lightning strike so close to the house. So I'm baffled.

Look at that baby. Snapped off at the base. A gnawing beaver can't reach that high. It's almost as if somebody or something pushed and pushed until Blighty Oak snapped. Perhaps my yard is the last refuge of MOMO. You remember MOMO, don't you? The Missouri Monster? A midwestern summertime Abominable Snowman? An uncool heartland Sasquatch? A western hemisphere Yeti? A hillbilly Bigfoot? Maybe he looks a little like this:

 Or maybe it was just time for a dead tree to snap. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Mayor of Shantytown

Hick is good with a hammer. He's also good for the environment. He loves nothing better than procuring treasures like cast-off wooden boxes, linchpins and concrete saws found on the road, lumber in dumpsters, wooden pallets propped beside the back doors of businesses with "Take me" signs attached, and salvage materials offered in lieu of payment by people who ask for his assistance in wiring and plumbing their newly-acquired rental property.

The first construction project on our land was an outhouse. It was necessary. There was no house yet. Hick had plans to build a barn, and contrary to Jeff Goldblum in The Big Chill, the outdoors is not one giant toilet. The outhouse was second only to the toolshed Hick built on his buddy's land and hauled to town by calling in a favor with a guy who owns a towing company. When we built our house, he hauled the toolshed back. Other projects include an A-frame cabin down by the creek, compete with a plexiglas window upstairs. In the loft. Then he built a new cabin, more conventionally rustic. So of course he needed a new outhouse. Then he built an all-purpose shed to sit in while watching for deer. And a little barn by the creek for hay for his goats, which are nowhere near the creek.

Most of the projects are out of sight. But every time we have a visitor, Hick strong-arms them into his Mule, and takes them on a tour. I'm sure they feel like they're stuck on the S.S. Minnow, with crazy Skipper tooling around, no end in sight. A teaching buddy told me, "That's some kind of community he's got there. It's like a poor man's Silver Dollar City."

Hick's current hobby involves putting siding on his all-purpose shed. He dragged it over to the barn, where it can be seen from the road. I'm not even going to ask where he got the siding. The Pony tells me that Hick ran out of siding this weekend. He came to the house and commanded The Pony to assist him. Seems that license plates are the new siding. Uh huh. Use your imagination. Hick needed The Pony to help take a plethora of license plates off the barn door, and attach them to the shed. And they're not even OUR license plates. You know how old people save them and tack them up on the wall of the garage? At least that's what old folks do out here in the hinterlands. But ours are nondescript, run-of-the-mill license plates that Hick picked up at flea markets. Just goes to show you that some people will buy anything.

I can't wait for this shed to go back down to the creek. The village called. It's missing a shanty.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Admit It. I'm Working Your Dream Job.

Did you know that high school boys get really hungry just before lunch? Even if lunch is served at 10:53 a.m.? I am well aware of that fact. Every year I hear about how they are starving. About how lunch smells SO good! It doesn't help that my room is right across the hall from the kitchen. Kids can't concentrate on anything else if they're hungry.

We were down to the last few minutes before the bell, debating on whether Chicken Noodle Soup is the same as Chicken and Noodles. One is a lunch menu staple every couple of weeks. Our cooks have never served the other one. I insisted that they are two different entrees, while a student swore that they are one and the same. A clever negotiator proposed that they are made out of the same thing, except that the Chicken and Noodles is made with egg noodles, while the soup is not. We agreed to disagree.

During the next two minutes, we told beef and pork jokes. That's because one student complained that the math assignment was a puzzle. Problems had to be answered correctly so a number would match a corresponding letter, leading to the answer of a riddle at the bottom of the page. Here's the original riddle, along with some jokes that resulted. Answers will follow.

1. "What did the cops put on a bad pig?"

2. "What do you call a cow with two legs?"

3. "What do you call a cow with no legs?"

4. "What does a pig put on his burn?"

1. hamcuffs
2. lean beef
3. ground beef
4. oinkment

Don't hate me because I am working your dream job. Hate me because I am a connoisseur of fine beef and pork jokes.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Give This Gal a Listen

Hey! Teacher buddies! If you haven't heard about this chick, you should really check her out. I have no connection. I'm getting no cut of the action. But she's like the best-kept secret ever. If you need a laugh, if you need a cry, her songs will do it for you. Because she, too, was a teacher. An insider like us. She's the real deal. I dare you to listen to any of these songs and NOT bob your head and say, "Ain't that the truth!" Well, maybe you won't say ain't, because you're a teacher. But you'll get what I'm talking about, and what she's singing about. Because you live it. Each and every day.

Judy Domeny Bowen. That's her. Here's the part of her website where you can listen to snippets of several songs. If you are so motivated, you can buy her CD there, or go through Amazon, where your can listen to samples and buy MP3s. Not that I'm pushing you to buy anything. I just think it's a shame that most people have never heard of her. Years ago, our PDC booked her for our first Professional Development day. Her presentation was fantastic. We laughed. We cried. We walked out of the cafeteria all fired up and ready to put our noses back to the grindstone. Because somebody GOT us. Somebody knew what we go through, why we do what we do.

I can't do her justice by posting the lyrics. And that seems kind of copyright-violating, anyway. But if you ever need to hear someone sing folk songs in a humorous manner about teacher stuff, check it out. Perhaps one of the following topics might appeal to you:

*sleeping in because you're SURE you'll be out for a snow day, but you're not
*teachers stampeding to the workroom to gorge on Christmas goodies every hour
*substitutes taking over your classroom, hanging streamers, promoting anarchy
*picture day and how various age groups approach it
*back-to-school classroom preparations
*last day of school
*classic kid books in the library
*yearly teacher observation
*future teacher of the year
*faculty meetings

That last one is what made me think of her today. Our first monthly faculty meeting. "Down to the library, that's where we go. We get us a pop, need some caffeine you know. Draggin' our feet, but we all gather in. The principal stands and begins..."

Like I said, I have no vested interest in this woman's entrepreneurship. She's creative. She built a website to hawk her works and talent. She established a career after her career. She's good enough, she's smart enough, and doggone it, people should like her!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The 9/11 One

Ten years ago today, I was in my classroom, teaching at-risk students. It was our second year in our brand-new high school building. We were three weeks into first quarter, and spirits were high.

The day started as usual at 8:12 a.m. with first bell. Around 8:30 CDT, our counselor showed up at my door. She called me out and told me that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center, that it did not appear to be an accident, and to keep the students calm. The office personnel and central office were monitoring the situation. Parents were calling the school asking what we were going to do.

Kids are not stupid. They could tell something was up. We didn't have television in any classrooms. Streaming video was not an option. I had a computer that used Windows 3.1, with no internet connection. Students had to rely on the teachers for information. And I was not supposed to discuss it.

Secrets are not kept well at school. By the end of first hour, several students from various classes had wangled restroom permission, and used the respite from the watchful eye of the classroom teacher to check their cell phones. Cell phones which, no doubt, had been vibrating to beat the band, with parents seeing this event unfold from home, and needing confirmation that all was well with Junior. Those kids went back to class and told other kids. By second hour, they were asking teachers what was going on. Their direct questions were answered. We assured them that we were all looking out for their safety. Parents started to arrive to check out their kids and take them home.

The civics classes went to the library to watch the coverage on television. The rest of us muddled on. Students coming from civics told us the current status. We went through the motions of a regular lesson. A stream of parents lined up out front. Kids were nervous.

After lunch, I had to drive to the middle school for my afternoon classes. The students there were calm. This age really relies on teachers to set their course, to show them how to act. They don't try to put on a front to show how cool, how bad, how unconcerned they are in a crisis. Genius was in first grade. I was fairly certain his day would go on as usual. I couldn't imagine the elementary turning on their TVs. The Pony was only three, at daycare in another town. So I didn't worry about him and his under-five companions.

I watched the news coverage into the night. For weeks, I had trouble sleeping. The sound of a plane put my nerves on edge. Students hearing a plane would ask me to look out and see what kind, and how close. I observed the contrails in the sky. Were they the same direction as this time every other day? My home is apparently on the flight path for fighter jet training out of Scott Air Force Base. The skies were quite active. Some of those guys fly pretty low. But it was fascinating to watch them twist and evade and roar back and forth over my roof.

The tragedy still upsets me. I can't read the newly-released phone calls from people on Flight 93. I can't watch the memorials. I watched the Nicolas Cage/Maria Bello movie, World Trade Center, about a year after it came out. I won't watch it again. Last night, I saw the end of Flight 93. I won't watch it again, either. I can't. I can't think of the people trapped on the roof of the World Trade Center. Of those who jumped. Or those inside when it collapsed.

I am naturally suspicious, from being a teacher all my life. I am on the lookout for behavior that is just a little off. I avoid crowds. I would never go to a national landmark or a sporting event or a parade or a casino on a major holiday. Or 9/11. I am perhaps less tolerant of people than I would have been pre 9/11. It's not a rainbow-and-unicorn world. No matter how much we want to make it all go away, and treat everybody equally to show how politically correct we are, to do so will one day make us a laughingstock to those hell-bent on harming us. A laughingstock, or dead.

That's my opinion. You are each welcome to yours.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I Love...

The problem with listening to music while I blog is that I get pulled away from the three or four ideas bouncing around in my head that I had planned to write about. Instead of shaking up those ideas in a mental Yahtzee dice cup and tossing them out to see which one is worthy of my convoluted creative treatment...I start thinking about the song that is playing when I open up the new post box.

Tonight, you're in for a treat. Tom T. Hall is singing an old ditty about his favorite things. No raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens for Mr. Tom T. He loves little baby ducks and old pickup trucks. And rain.

I'm no Oprah, but here are a few of my favorite things:

*garden tomatoes with crispy fried pork chops
*buying a new chicken figurine for Hick at the hospital gift shop
*driving home from school with a forecast of snow overnight
*ER reruns
*making my boys laugh
*autumn leaves crunching under my feet on a trail at the state park
*baby goats
*writing about the ridiculous predicaments that befall me
*classic rock
*Pilot precise rolling ball pens
*the smell of summer rain
*choosing the perfect Scotch pine and sawing it down for Christmas
*when Hick gets all protective like I'm a fragile flower
*watching my students play their hearts out in a basketball game
*the end of the work day when I'm caught up and ready for tomorrow
*the smell of the night air on a hayride
*playing games at my sister's house on Christmas Eve
*talking to my mom every morning at 6:00
*reading my boys' report cards
*Big Brother, Survivor, and The Amazing Race
*watching a shiny rooster strut through the front yard
*trivia competitions
*homemade vegetable beef soup with garlic toast on the side
*new magazines
*a good first-hand true ghost story
*seeing Hick all excited about something he bought at the auction
*the good will exuded by my students, even as I chastise them for minor infractions
*the joy my holiday Chex Mix brings to the recipients
*gas station chicken
*Seinfeld shows
*Sonic Diet Coke with Lime
*summer vacation

Friday, September 9, 2011

Who Wants to Pitch?

Pardon me if I'm a bit nosy tonight. But inquiring minds want to know. What is the state of your work-in-progress?

Is it still rattling around in your head, reluctant to be penned onto paper or stored electronically? Is it in the embryonic stages, slowly forming as days and weeks go by? Has it matured and earned a rest in a cozy desk drawer? Have you dismembered it in a fit of doubt? Are you channeling your Dr. Frankenstein to piece together the monster? Have you polished it to a high sheen, and wish to announce your bouncing baby book?

If you're ready to write a pitch, I have just the contest for you. Anne Mini has announced her Author! Author! Perfect Pitch Competition of 2011. Check out the link to see the rules. You need to scroll down a bit. They are in bold print. If you're unsure of just what a pitch entails, there is a wealth of information in her sidebar. In fact, that sidebar is like a one-stop shop for formatting everything but the kitchen sink.

Don't go poo-pooing Anne Mini's contests. Yours truly happened to win the Author! Author! Rings True Literary Competition in March of this year. It was a contest for the first page, one-page synopsis, and brief author bio. That link is here. A video critique from Anne and author Heidi Durrow (The Girl Who Fell From the Sky) was also part of the deal.

So if you're pitch-ready, check out this contest. Don't cost nothin'. The deadline is midnight in your time zone, on Friday, September 30.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

With a Little Help from Big Pharma

I broke down this morning and called my doctor's office to request some cough medicine. I was sick over the holiday weekend with a virulent virus, so sick that I slept a mere 3-4 hours per night due to snot drippage intent on strangling me. BWAH HAH! I emerged victorious once again! Val. Stronger than your average virus.

Because I felt so much better on Tuesday, I neglected to seek drugs during my planning period. I thought I was on the mend. Once the afternoon rolled around, I thought differently. Evening proved worse than afternoon. Night outdid evening. There I was again, unable to sleep unless sitting near upright in a recliner. Wednesday morning, I had the world by the tail. No doctor call. Wednesday night, it was deja vu all over again.

This morning, I took that bunch of bull by the horns. I called. The phone answerer asked my birthdate. Then my first name. Then my drug allergies. And said a prescription would be called in. This seemed too good to be true. I didn't even have to fake cough and describe my sputum. How could she magically deduce my name from that bit of information? Was she just shining me on? Giving me the old runaround? Getting me off the phone and then chortling to her cohorts about my gullibility?

I arrived at the pharmacy to find my bottle of Iophen waiting. It has performed admirably this evening. My wheezing has lessened. I am not drug-drowsy. My lungs do not feel like twin wet sponges.

I have a full night of sleep in my sights. I cannot decide whether to count sheep jumping over the pasture fence, rehearse my Today show interview upon the release of my all-time best-selling tome titled Complaining Will Get You Everywhere, or replay my favorite scenario of how I take over the world.

The ZZZZs will not elude me tonight.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Move Now, White Cow

On the way to work this morning, I crested a hill and saw THIS:

Of course, because of the Law of Murphy, she was in a little depression. Not the kind that might make Bossy cut herself, or put her head in the oven, or give away her ear tag and her cud. The kind that's a low area with a rise behind it. I had a choice of going into the lane of oncoming traffic to take my chances with the Mystery Vehicle of Death that might be on the other side, or giving Bossy a crash course in Newton's Second Law of Motion. Since Bossy didn't look to be a sciency kind of gal, I gave the old heifer a wide berth, then gassed my Tahoe back into my own lane. Chaos was avoided.

This is the country. It is only neighborly to seek out the cattle baron and inform him that his fortune is trickling down the road. At 7:00 a.m. on the way to work, neighborliness flies out the window. At forty-five miles per hour. I did not want to be late. Twenty-one freshmen are a terrible thing to leave unattended. It's not like this guy lives next door. He's a three-mile neighbor. We wave when he's driving his tractor down the road, or when his wife parks their truck to stop traffic while herding the cattle to another pasture. I did not feel comfortable cruising up their driveway and knocking on the door at that hour. So Bossy was left to her own devices.

On the way home, I saw a cow-sized spot on the road across from where Bossy had planted herself this morning. I hope there was no carnage. The pavement didn't look bloody. Just wet. Perhaps Bossy battles incontinence, and can't watch the commercials with pipe people and class reunion balloons for pharmaceuticals to correct her problem. Because she's a cow. She has no TV. Much less a phone to call in her prescription, or a ride to town to visit her bovinatrician or bovinecologist.

Surely there would have been raw leather all over the thoroughfare if Bossy had met her demise. There was no evidence of cowhide or cow hair or car shards. I can't help but feel guilty for not trying to notify someone. Imagine how Bossy's four stomachs might have dropped at the sight of a more reckless driver. One who likes to play chicken with road cows.

I've got to stop beating myself up. I can't act as Cow Police for the whole world, you know.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Visual Acuity is in the Eye of the Beholder

Remember my post last week, Blind. Leading the. ? Sure you do. Play along. Because today I'm reliving it.

The Pony and I left school and motored our way toward town. Something caught my eye on the grassy right shoulder area. It was a maroon chair. At first, it looked like a recliner. Then I say that it was a 1970s style overstuffed maroon number. With white stuffing escaping from the right arm. The Pony saw it, too.

Hey! That was a chair!

Uh huh. It wasn't there this morning.

Who would throw a chair out along the road?

Who would throw a refrigerator, a portable meth lab, a truckload of tree trimmings, a mattress, and a washing machine out along the road? We've had those things tossed on our road.

Yeah. But that chair didn't have anything wrong with it.

What? It had stuffing hanging out!

No it didn't.

Listen, Mr. Skunk Is A Puppy, Blanket Is A Skunk. I am telling you that as sure as my Windshield Beetle eyes can see, that chair was no good!

All right. But that was no beetle on the windshield.

Society can only hope that The Pony and I are never called as witnesses in a criminal trial.

Monday, September 5, 2011

You Have a Different Scenario, Perhaps?

I have been a bit under the weather this weekend, with a back-to-school virus. I am usually able to  avoid the first sickness, but both my boys brought it home. I set out for some hot-and-sour soup this afternoon in an effort to ease my symptoms.

Like John Travolta as Bud in Urban Cowboy told Aunt Corene after he broke his arm down at the plant, when Sissy had run off with Wes, the ex-con mechanical-bull controller, "Cornbread tastes real good when you're hurtin'," right after Aunt Corene said, "Y'all live like pigs!" and made some individual tuna salads with onion instead of with apples and pecans, the way Sissy liked it...hot-and-sour soup tastes real good when you've got a cold.

Little did I know that I would have to wait twenty-five minutes for my hot-and-sour soup. That's uncalled for. Seriously. There were only three customers. I ordered my take-out soup. Then an eating-in couple ordered General Tso's Chicken and Chicken and Broccoli with a side of hot-and-sour soup. They got their side soup before I got mine. Five minutes before. So they only waited twenty minutes.

You would think that little gal hopped on a slow boat to China, wrestled a wizened Panda for the bamboo shoots, then planted the soybeans and waited for them to grow, harvested them, curdled the soy milk, pressed it into blocks, cut it into cubes, then trekked through a forest to forage for mushrooms, then hatched a chicken from its egg, raised it with love, chopped off its head, boiled it, poured off the broth, gathered all ingredients, hopped another slow boat back from China, set the fixin's on the counter, and waited for the teenage boy to finish his video game before ordering him to make the soup.

At least that's the scenario that passed through my mind while I coughed up my right lung waiting for my soup.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Motel at the Corner of Femur and Tibia

I have mice. Joint mice. Flaky pieces of cartilage that have abandoned the ol' meniscus ship to float freely within my sea of synovial fluid.

The problem with joint mice is that you never know when they will manifest themselves. One minute they're all cartoon cute, wearing little red shorts, white gloves, and yellow shoes, courting a lady mouse in a big pink bow with a bouquet of bright flowers...and the next minute they're jamming little mouse potatoes into the tailpipe of my knee joint, and two-fistedly gnawing on nerves they envision to be tasty wedges of cheddar cheese.

The transformation occurs without warning. I think I'm going to take a step forward, and my knee locks up with the bonus of a shooting pain. After a few limps, the pain might go away. Or it might linger for several weeks. And that's with the good knee. Not the good one who tries to persuade the bad one that it's wrong to toss a dummy off a highway overpass to cause a chain reaction auto accident, like Elijah Wood tried to persuade Macaulay Culkin in The Good Son. No. The good one, as in the knee which has not gone under the knife.

I can generally pacify the joint mice with a snap of cold weather to their insular community behind the patella, at the corner of femur and tibia. An ice pack every evening makes them somewhat tractable. I am not ready to evict the little vermin with a surgical procedure. Too bad an orange-striped cat is not an option. Nor a sticky-floored joint mouse motel.

I guess I'm going to have to live with them.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Loomed

Is this a sign of the apocalypse?

My lilac bush is blooming. That is not a euphemism for something improper. My actual front-yard lilac bush has sprouted several blossoms. When I looked out the front window, I thought some trash had blown onto the bush. Or perhaps a crafty giant arachnid had ensconced some limbs with webs. I sent Hick out to investigate on his way to the barn. I sent The Pony to take a picture with his phone.

Never have I ever seen lilacs bloom in September. They're an April kind of treat in these here parts. I'm giving props to the goats who stood on their hind legs to devour my lilacs and limbs and shoots and leaves. Or perhaps to Hick, who wrapped a limb with duct tape in an effort to prevent me from noticing that his caprine kids had broken a big branch.

Still. This does not seem normal.

The rest of the earth is scorched and parched. Temperatures have soared into the high nineties for weeks. But something set my lilacs to blooming. It's the bush that Hick dug up from my grandma's yard. The bush that took seven years to bloom. From the grandma who passed away last September.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Wardrobe Malfunction of the Third Kind

The tale you are about to read was jogged from my repressed memory museum on Sunday, when I popped in to read Tammy's Message in a Bloggle and see what she had percolating in her weekly Improper Poll.

Let's get the ground rules out of the way first. In Val's terminology, wardrobe malfunctions are classified thus:

Wardrobe Malfunction of the First Kind - a wardrobe malfunction is spotted on another person at a distance of 500 yards or less. Such as when the job counselor at the unemployment office wears one brown shoe and one black shoe to work.

Wardrobe Malfunction of the Second Kind - physical traces of a wardrobe malfunction are found. Like when you find a pair of panties in the wastebasket in the Sonic bathroom, and surmise, "There's one pair of undies that is not going to be creeping up the wearer's crack anymore."

Wardrobe Malfunction of the Third Kind - when a person actually comes in contact with her own wardrobe malfunction. See below.

Many years ago, shortly after the birth of my youngest son, I was attacked by my own gallbladder. It was quite a painful ordeal, necessitating my slow-speed rush from the classroom by way of my aunt's Lincoln Town Car to a local emergency room. A nurse without protective gloves jabbed me for a blood sample and created a crimson Old Faithful at my inner elbow. Results in hand, as well as ON hands, shoes, and white pants, she started an IV of saline solution while the doctor on duty figured out what to do with me.

Because the ER was ER only, I needed transport to a full-service hospital. I was advised that I could wait for the ambulance to return to the upper reaches of the county and scoop me up, or I could travel by private vehicle. The ambulance might take a couple of hours, but I could leave in the IV and have pain meds in it. Private vehicle would be quicker, but the IV would have to be removed and re-started at the hospital. Oh, and no pain meds until I was evaluated at New Hospital.

Perhaps you have not had the misfortune of gallbladder auto-assault. It is quite unpleasant. The pain is worse than childbirth. Worse than a broken bone. Worse than a torn cartilage. In the back of my mind, I knew that the offending organ had to be removed. So I did not see any benefit in lolling about waiting for my sirened carriage to haul me to New Hospital. Hick had arrived from work, and decreed that he would drive me. I signed out somewhat against medical advice to hightail it to the full-service hospital.

Bear with me. I'm getting to the wardrobe malfunction.

They were expecting me at New Hospital. I was quickly gowned, and an IV and pain pump were installed on my left forearm. The nurse was impressed by my pain tolerance, what with my amylase levels being too high to schedule surgery. According to her, most people with that level were not walking around, coherent. But enough bragging about my superior bullet-biting pain threshold. I was assigned a bed so I could hurry up and wait for the amylase levels to fall into a surgically acceptable range. At least that's how I understood it. But then again, I was on a Demerol pump. So for all I know, Captain Unicorn rocked me in a porch swing under the rainbow until the owie went away.

An ultrasound was ordered to discern whether the gallstones might pass and put the kibosh on that whole surgery scenario. The nurse told me to make sure I was only wearing the hospital gown, and made a hasty exit. Which was kind of a problem, because in our haste, we had slapped on that gown with my bra still in place. My plan was to take off that bra and slip it through the gown sleeve and off the end of my arm. The arm which was attached by two tubes to a metal IV tree on wheels, by way of a bag of saline solution and a wonderful narcotic-on-demand box.

I was a gamer. I finagled that bra loose, even though I had to use my right, non-tethered arm to unhook it single-handedly. A task usually done with my left hand. Then I was stumped. There was no way that bra was going to slip over those mediciny obstacles and that metal stand. I thought it through like a chimpanzee contemplating which twig to use as a termite fork. I would have to slide the bra down my arm, over the two tubes, and up or down that metal stand. It was worse than a Chinese ring puzzle. Oh, how I wished for a chimpanzee to show me what to do. But there were none in my wing of the hospital. Go figure.

The sensible thing to do would have been to ring the nurse with the call button, and tell her my predicament. Which would have meant either taking out the tubes at my inner elbow and thumb-wrist area, and then reinserting them after the recalcitrant bra had been removed...or using scissors to snip the offending undergarment off my arm. I do not fear needles. But I had no desire to incur a fifth and sixth stabbing of the day.

So I did what any sane woman with a bra malfunction and a squirt of Demerol every fifteen minutes would have done, and I chewed through the plastic ring thingy that held the strap to the bra proper. No removable strap looped through a slotted doodad for my bra. Nope. The end of the strap was stitched tighter than sixteen-year-old boy's eyebrow after a collision with a gym wall.

Yep. I destroyed one of my favorite bras rather than undergo two more skin punctures. And I saw no need to announce the predicament to the nurse in order to allow her to cut through Brazilla with a pair of tape scissors. It was only fitting that I sever Brazilla myself.

Which was a Wardrobe Malfunction of the Third Kind, orchestrated by a Demerol-addled Val.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Kyocera Lays the Smack Down on Mother Teresa

I tried to get away right after school today. Right after the fifteen minutes that we are required to loiter around the halls keeping students from loitering in the halls. All of my grading was complete. I had whipped up a test using my new textbook test generator. But the confounded thing had not printed correctly on my desktop HP inkjet. I searched the printers available. They can't have regular names like Two Doors Down, or Work Room. They have names that can be recited as serial numbers in case they fall into the wrong hands. Mine, for example, is HP 940C. One year I had to turn him off, because folks from far and near were monopolizing him, soaking up the ink which I paid for by the sweat of my own brow. Apparently, kids were trying to print, dashing to the lab, not finding their 400-page document from which they needed a two-sentence quote, and going back to hit print again.

I needed a different printer so the eclipse diagrams on my test would come out with all parts readable. I think little HP 940C was low on ink. So I took a chance on a license-plate-number of a printer, by process of elimination, and attempted to print a single page of seven vocabulary words, headed by the title of my current chapter. In hindsight, perhaps I should have merely tried to print a single word, testing, and checked for my resultant copy in the teacher workroom. But no.

The Pony had arrived, so I sent him hoofing it up to the workroom to see if my copy had been spit out by big bad Kyocera. He returned forthwith, and replied that not only was my page nonexistent, but that Kyocera said, "Clear paper jam."

Of course that set my cold, cold heart to palpitating. Because as any teacher knows, even though you are the one who jammed the copier, you don't want any evidence to point to you. Evidence like a ripped-up page bearing the subject matter of your class. It doesn't matter that a mouse crawled in after the bell and was crushed by the moving parts, and your paper had nothing to do with the malfunction. YOU WILL BE BLAMED for it in the morning, when your colleagues stand four abreast with last-minute, must-have originals in their hands, gazing balefully at the cantankerous Kyocera.

I made a beeline for the workroom. Ever-helpful master-copier Kyocera mentored me like a wise elder. No less than eleven problem areas were flashing on his brain. I followed the directions to a T. "Open front door." Yeah. Kyocera has to be quite literal with us faculty simpletons. I turned and flipped and opened and closed and pulled and yanked and peered and sighed. After clearing five of the flashing arrow areas, I gave up. Because those papers contained material from a class that was not mine. Nobody was gonna trace this malfunction to moi!

Wasn't that selfless of me? To partially clear the copier jam, even though somebody else was responsible for clogging Kyocera? Let me answer for you, "Yes, Val. That was selfless. You are a regular Mother Teresa. Just like the mom of one of your cronies purported several years ago. Even though she had never met nor spoken with you."

I laid the twisted, tattered shreds of the two papers on top of Kyocera. Just in case anybody was wondering who broke the copier.

And in case that was not even the copier my page was sent to, somebody is sure to drag that sheet to my room tomorrow and ask if it's mine. Then I'll know the name and location of another copier. The Even Steven reward for my half-a-good-deed today.