disapproving kitty

Monday, March 31, 2014

No Bears Were Harmed as a Result of This Post*

Dear Legislature,

It's time for your annual evaluation as protectors of the public good!

We, the People, have determined that the best way to evaluate your ability to protect our general welfare is to see how well you can defend yourselves against angry bears.  We'll be loosing the bears upon the Statehouse during the first week of May, and will be carefully examining all your responses to gauge your effectiveness as a legislative body.

As you are well aware, last August we presented you with a multitude of Bear Defense coursework, intended to hone your protective skills, as provided by the now well-funded Angry Bear Aficionados of America.  The millions of dollars these courses cost, along with the cost of providing bears for your examinations, as well as graders for these exams has been well spent.  The ABAA is extremely happy with the money in its coffers, and supports this effort in full.

What's that?  Training exclusively for bear defense takes away time spent doing more important aspects of your job?  What could be more important than protecting your public against angry bears?  While this may only be a portion of what you do, without this objective measure, we'll have no way of determining how effective a legislature you are, and how well you are protecting the interests of those who voted for you!  If you have to spend all your time teaching to the test, to the detriment of your other duties, well, that's your problem.  You should find a solution to that, shouldn't you?  Perhaps you should work harder instead of taking so much time off.

Beg pardon?  You say that basing our judgement of your ability to govern entirely upon how well you defend against angry bears isn't reliable or valid, and maybe we shouldn't be loosing angry bears on anybody as a measure of anything?   Let me tell you that the ABAA assures us that this is a very fine measure indeed, and we demand accountability!

Excuse me?  Did I just hear you say that letting angry bears rampage around in order to test the ability of people to do anything other than fight angry bears is absurd at best and has the potential to cause real, serious and lasting harm?   And it won't accurately assess anything at all -- it's just a way to funnel taxpayer money into private hands?

Well.  Imagine that.

Sincerely Yours,
The Good Citizens You're Supposed to be Protecting


*nor was anyone else.  For the humor-impaired, this is satire, not an actual threat.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Small Pleasures

1.  Knowing that there is dinner waiting for you in the crockpot when you get home.
2.  Someone else being in charge of dinner.
3.  Coming downstairs from putting the kids to bed and discovering that J. has cleaned the kitchen.
4.  Showering after a good, sweaty workout.
5.  Rolling over out of a deep sleep and realizing that I still have 2 more hours before I have to get up.
6.  Snuggling into bed.
7.  NPR
8.  The random occasional texts from my brother that make me laugh out loud.
9.  Having the house completely to myself sometimes.

What are yours?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I Went To Sleep With Gum in My Mouth*

Yesterday was not a grand day.  I won't go so far to say that it was Truly Bad.  There was no Big Awful Thing, but it was just a day I was glad to see the back of.

It was death by a thousand pin pricks.  All the tiny things, starting with the inability to fall asleep until 2am when I needed to be up by 6 so that I could get a jump start on the school day.  Only I kept hitting snooze until 7:15 and between that and losing my phone for the umpteenthousandthtime, this time for 20 minutes** I was late to work instead of being 45 minutes early.

It was a day of little annoyances.  Of small slights, little digs and petty disrespect from multiple corners.  Whiny, crabby children and irritable adults.   It was a day of lights that turned red as I drove up and rude drivers, things dropped, many bumps, trips and near-falls***  I missed my Holidalies post.  I didn't exercise.  My pants are getting tight.  I stepped where the cat threw up and my shoulder aches and the kitchen floor feels like it's made of adhesive.  I forgot something I left at work, couldn't find a FedEx store and had to run errands at rush hour.  I hate running errands at rush hour.

Lots of it, like dear Alexander, I suspect I brought upon myself by being unprepared or absent-minded, or just plain stubborn and none of this is the universe's fault, and I had no one to blame but me. Some days are like that, Viorist says, even in Australia.

When I got home, I asked on FB for my friends to cheer me up, and they did it.  In spades.  And, amazingly, the day was better.  Not just because I was laughing or cringing**** but because it meant there were many people out there who thought it was worth their time to make me smile.

I went to bed early, but before I fell asleep I was texted a joke about two snowmen.

There is something right in the universe when you know someone who will text you a clean joke about snowmen at 10pm at night.

So it started out a pretty crappy day and ended up not so bad.  Some days are like that, too.

Even in Australia.*****


*I didn't, really.  It's one of the best first lines in any children's book ever, The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by the marvelous Judith Viorist.  If you don't have a copy, get one.  It doesn't matter if you have children or not.

**It was in my bathrobe pocket.  I almost never wear my bathrobe and for reasons not worth going into here I wore it the night before and put my phone in the pocket of this thick, terrycloth bathrobe.  Which I then put into the back of my closet, behind lots and lots of other clothes.  Guess how easy it is to hear a phone ringing through that?†

***I had a physical therapist tell me once that she suspected I have a slight disability in proprioception, and thus I bang into things with great frequency.  It's worse some days than others.  This was one of the worse days.

****a photo involving a dad, an axe and his bikini clad daughter.  You don't want to know.

*****Not that I actually know this.  I suspect, though.

†not very

Sunday, December 8, 2013

If you want brownies at 3 A.M. I can hook you up.

In an attempt to get myself into the holiday spirit, and because it sounded really good when a friend of mine posted the idea on her wall, I decided to make fudge this evening.  This required evaporated milk, marshmallows, butter, and sugar among other things, depending on which kind I wanted to make.  Turns out I had all these things.  Plus four different strengths of chocolate chips, white chocolate chips* and  half a bag of mint chips.  And walnuts.
This is not unusual.
Years ago, probably during the years where I lived with my parents after college,** my brother and I had a group of friends over, and one of them lamented that we never had food at our house.  We were sorta dumbfounded because, had we wanted to, we probably could have put together a 7 course meal including 3 different breads, 2 soups, 4 meats and half a dozen desserts with what we had on hand.  What she meant was that we rarely had any insta-food.  No ready made lasagnas in the freezer, nothing you could just heat in the microwave and eat.  All the food we had was of the some-assembly-required variety.***
My cousins once went to visit relatives on their step-dad's**** side of the family in California.  While they loved the visit and everyone there, one of my cousins lamented that "They don't have any ingredients."  I'm sure they had food around, but nothing you could use to whip up pancakes, a casserole or brownies because the mood just struck you.  I'm not sure what these people do when the desperate need for baked goods strikes late at night when there's bad weather for driving.  Maybe this explains why Californians are thinner than I am.
The point is, I think, that I have ingredients.
I like the magic of taking things that you can't just eat straight (well, you could, but I wouldn't) like flour and eggs and chocolate chips (ok, I eat those straight from the bag) and turning them in to nine kinds of deliciousness.  I like thinking about my pantry and freezer and refrigerator as the day passes and thinking "I have all the things to make chicken and rice, or enchiladas or pizza for dinner."
I like that my mother can visit and say "Where are the ...?" and know that I will have whatever it is she needs.*****
I have ingredients, and I know what to do with them.  I feel good about this.  I'm no good at household repairs, don't understand electronics, and am pretty bad at self-defense so when the revolution comes there's a good chance I'll be among the first ones against the wall, but if I'm not, then I'll be very good at cooking meals for the rest of the survivors.
I can live with that.


*which I think should be called something other than chocolate because it's false advertising and makes you think "ooh! chocolate!" when it's totally not and it's sort of like eating sweetened suntan lotion.  There's only disappointment there.  I don't even know why I had them.

**along with my younger brother.  I can't tell you how happy they were when we finally moved out into an apartment together and started acting like actual adults.  I try to remember this phase of my life when I get judgy about people who live with their parents after age 23.

***Please note that this is not a disparagement of insta-food.  Stouffer's lasagna is the food of the gods, and my freezer is filled with fish sticks, corn dogs and nuggety food that I heat for the kids on a regular basis.  I'm a working mom.  Don't judge.

****One of the sweetest, most generous and kind souls ever to have walked this earth.  "Step" often has negative connotations, and I didn't want anyone to think there were any here.

*****Except onions.  I love onions, but I can't digest them anymore.  More's the pity.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Pointless, Uninteresting and Incoherent, but Maybe Salvagable

In trying to find something to write about today, I went back through some of the unpublished drafts of things I'd written before thinking maybe I could let myself off easy.   I pushed the words around a bit, added some, took things out and....nothing.  The essays just lay there on the screen, either pointless or uninteresting or incoherent or all three.  Just.  Bad.  I should probably delete them but I can't quite bring myself to do that.  Maybe I need to keep them there, these little failed attempts, to remind me of something.  What, exactly, I'm not sure, but I'm sure theres a lesson in them somewhere.  Or maybe I'm hoping they will age well.  When I was a kid, my best friend once told me that "art ages."  If she'd made something she didn't like all that much she would tuck it away for awhile.  When she brought it back out, it would usually be better than she remembered.  I've tried that.  It sometimes works.  I also remember a time in 8th grade art class when I was working on a still life.  It was terrible.  The art teacher, bless him, would let me come in during lunch to work on it.  I did, nearly every day, for ages.  I kept pounding away at this doomed sketch of some jumbled crap on a table and then one day, suddenly, it changed.  I can recall looking at it at the end of lunch period and going "Huh! That actually looks...good."  I can recall even better the my art teacher's look of astonishment, and his comment along the lines of  "I'd lost hope on that...but now it looks right.  Wow."  It's something to get your teacher to admit that he'd given up on you but you'd managed to redeem yourself anyways.
I've pretty much given up hope on these old posts that I will never publish, but I'm still not deleting them.  Not yet.  I never know when I might be able to redeem myself.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Look at All the Helpers

I had a parent volunteer today.

I'm pretty sure she isn't the first parent volunteer I've ever had, but I'm not positive.  I've had scores of parents volunteer for field trips, and a few who have come in to help out during an intensive hands-on kind of day, but this mom came in to just do...whatever.  Copying.  Cutting things out.  Sorting things into little baggies to make kits for math or thinking skills lessons or whatever.  Stapling.  Those things which take a fair amount of time to do, and tend to pile up as I'm usually busy teaching or lesson planning or meeting or searching for any number of the thousand things I'm always trying to find.  My filing system is less than optimal.  Even when I have everything saved into the server, I don't always remember what I called it whenever I created it originally, and often it's less time-consuming to just re-create it rather than try to find it in our jungle of a server.*

She came in, with her pre-school aged daughter and took a vast pile of copying and went and did it for me.  She's the mom of one of my gifted kids, and is a smart woman herself.  I don't know her story.  Maybe she's taking time off from a career so she can be home with her kids.  Maybe she works from home but does this in her spare time because she enjoys a few hours of somewhat mindless work, and knowing that she's giving something back.  Maybe she works 2nd shift but likes to get out of the house with her young daughter during the day just for the change of scenery.  I don't know.  Maybe I should ask, but I don't want to pry, really, or have it look like I'm devaluing any choice she's made to be doing this, and sometimes even asking can seem like judging.

She, or another parent of my students have said they'll volunteer for me again.  And the 5th grade teachers always offer to share the volunteer who comes in for them since they sometimes don't have things organized enough to give to her.  That's the rub, really.  I have to be prepped in advance to have the thing I need to have copied, or the stuff I need put together set out with instructions.  I like that it compels me to be more organized and prepared.  I've been flying by the seat of my pants for most of this year (and I'm not the only one by a long shot.  It's been a very, very hard year all across the district.)  That's not the point, though.

The point, which I keep wandering away from, is that she volunteered.

She is helping.

Like Mr. Rogers said, "Look at the helpers."

This whole year has felt like we are in crisis mode and it's all I can do not to melt down regularly.  I am angry.  A lot.  I am outraged.  A lot.  I feel helpless in the face of a corporate steamroller, coming to destroy the institution I love with the assistance of elected officials they are paying a lot more money to than I ever could.

But I'm not helpless!  I have a helper.  And she doesn't ask for anything in return.  There are lots of parents, every day, trying to take a little of the load off.

So maybe I'll focus on that for a bit, instead of all the rest, and see if it helps.  If it does, then what she does for me is worth even more than just the photocoyping.**


*It's happened more than once that I've totally re-created something I made two years ago and then found the original.  They will look like near-exact replicas.  It's a little spooky.

**Which is worth a lot.  Don't get me wrong.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What Do You Do When You Can't Find the Funny or a Good Recipe

It's Holidailies time again and I'm only two days late!

I've been working on the first post for this December for about 30 minutes now.  I started a nice little piece about surprises, but about 2/3 of the way through I stopped.   The post was supposed to be just sort of light and pithy, but wound up lumbering along, getting far too heavy for itself as I had a bit of a self- revelation* with regards to me and surprises that frankly makes me kinda look like an ass, so we'll just let that be for awhile.  See what happens with it.

As you can tell, I'm not quite into the swing of writing yet.

Holidailies very kindly gave me a prompt-- something about holiday recipes -- but it didn't do much for me so I was winging it.  Maybe I should go back and think about recipes for a bit.

I haven't posted a whole lot since the beginning of the school year, and if you go back a few posts you'll probably see why.  It's been a challenging year.  I thought it might be best if I didn't make every December post a rant about what is happening to public education, though.  Unfortunately, that's what is taking up the majority of my brain space at the moment and it's been hard to find the light and pithy lately.

There's a cat trying to sit on the computer now, and I think I've had all the useful thoughts I'm going to have for today.  Perhaps tomorrow I will find the funny and create a post of wry observations on the nature of life or children or cats.

Or maybe I'll just post my favorite holiday recipe.

*The revelation was that I kinda like to be in control of things and have difficulty when I'm not in charge, which, honestly, isn't much of a revelation for anyone who's known me for more than half an hour.