Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Fog Stole My Feet

Oh October, how you beguile me. One moment it's radiant light, dancing lady trees, quivering aspen, and scarlet burning bushes. Then the next day you shroud yourself, hiding all but the tiniest glimpse of your splendor.

The fog slithered along the ground, my feet disappearing as if underwater. The soggy, snow covered leaves assured me I was still on terra firma, yet looking down, I was footless, as if walking in water. Thick, goey clam chowder water.

I couldn't see across the street, only the faint glow of the still-lit street light. As I waded through the bright yellow carpet of fallen leaves, a few would pop out of the fog and twirl in front of me. I know where the stairs are, so I was safe, but it was surreal ascending them without seeing my feet.

I turned back to look at my house (the purpose of my venturing forth in the fog to begin with). I could see a tube from the aquaponic garden poking out of the fog towards me. Lumps that were cars. My faint street light. The closest branches of our autumn blaze maple, with a couple of lonely leaves.

Driving was even weirder. 15 mph was about the extent of visibility, but of course cars (without headlights) would come out of nowhere, as if they'd just exited some wormhole. I turned on my fog lights. (Swedish cars need fog lights...)

Pulling into the dreaded carline was bizarre. There was no school. I was in a line going nowhere, could only see one car in front of me, and we just crept along. Finally I could make out a flagpole, and the school appeared as I entered the circle, as if just deposited there by some kid done building a Lego set.

I inched my way home and wondered about the extreme contrast from the day before. It didn't escape me that I had only one day of my favorite month left – and I could see very little of it. It's as if October was saying, “Pay attention! Look closely! I'm still here, but not for long. Cherish the day.”

Today she's back in her full glory for one more showy day. I'm crunching through my dancing leaves again, marveling at the now blood red burning bushes around every corner, and wishing that time would stand still, just a little longer.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Do You Believe in Miracles?

Or when something extraordinary happens, do you just chalk it up to beating the odds? (For those of you who argue with me about math's usefulness – here's another example ;-) Let me tell you what happened last week, and you tell me: miracle or odds.

For our 20th wedding anniversary last year, The Engineer bought me a gorgeous, pink sapphire ring with diamond accents. OK, that's not entirely true. He PAID for the ring which I picked out.

Ever since he gave me a toaster oven for Christmas the first year we were dating, I've picked out my own gifts and said, “Here honey, look what you got me!” We joke about it. “How did you know that a this would be perfect? You're such a good shopper!” I've worn it everyday since.

Monday was no ordinary day. I was finally starting to feel human again, the boys were leaving for hunting on Wednesday, and I had to buy their groceries, and get all the clothes washed so they could pack.

I filled a cart over the brim at the grocery store. It was meticulously packed. The checker, as he was filling bag after bag, decided I needed two carts to get everything out to the car because he wasn't a good packer. I got everything inside the house. I put everything away, I packed the food for the trip. During this outing, I'd used every reusable cloth grocery bag I own.

As I was folding load of laundry number five, I needed lotion. As I was putting it on, I noticed, to my horror, that the stone was missing from my ring. I was despondent. What are the odds of finding something of that size after all that my hands had done in the last four hours? NOT VERY GOOD. Chances slim to none. It could be hiding literally anywhere in the house, a bag, the store, the parking lot...

I don't give up easily though, so I called the store and asked them to look out for it. I tore apart my bed, where I fold laundry. I started to think about where I might have dinged my hand and realized that shoving all the sandwich makings into the meat drawer might have put some pressure on my hand. I took the drawer all apart. No stone.

Next I decided that why not go through all the cloth grocery bags that I'd folded and put away after emptying them. I had to do something, and might as well do a complete-able task. Most have that rubbery bottom flap thingie to stabilize them. I took it out when possible, and ran my hands under the ones that were attached. I came to a bag with no bottom rubber thing, so I just shook it out.

Tink, tink, tink.”

Something fell out of the bag. Pebble, probably. But I looked around on the wood floor, and there was my pink heart. INCONCEIVABLE! I was floored. I cried. I called the store back, and told the same nice lady in customer service that I'd found it. “That's completely amazing!” I agreed.

So you tell me, miracle, or just beating the (almost impossible) odds? I'm voting miracle.

Have you ever lost, and then found something precious that you were unlikely to ever see again? Do you believe in miracles? Do you buy your own gifts because you're married to such a great shopper like I am?


Thursday, October 24, 2013

In Case of Emergency...

It didn't used to be complicated. I've been using inhalers for a long time for asthma. Here, let me explain in a few simple steps.

This is an inhaler.

You push down on it and suck in the medicine.

Then they decided a lot of the medicine used to get stuck in my throat so they gave me a spacer.

This is a spacer.

It has a hole to put the “suck here” end of the inhaler into it.

And a new “suck here” place. 

Put inhaler in opening A, put lips around opening B, push button, suck in medicine.

However, now they have a new kind of inhaler, which I get to use because the old kind doesn't really work so well for me anymore.  You remember how medically "special" I am...

It looks like this. 

See anything resembling anything familiar from the other pictures? Me neither. Good thing I got instructions.

These take up, I kid you not, ¼ of my bed. See all the pictures? See how complicated it is? Now imagine you're having a breathing emergency. Do you have time to decipher all these directions? No. You do not. You want to suck up some medicine right away. NOW. 

You don't want to find slots A,B,C, and D. You don't want to figure out how to get the bottom half of the inhaler off to insert the cartridge.  Correctly.  Which they explain.  In detail.  You don't want to have to repeat steps 5, 6, 7 FOUR times. (These involve priming the inhaler by turning the bottom half until you hear a "distinct" click, then depressing the "activation button".)  I'm quoting directly from the brochure here. And get this. These steps need to be performed EACH time you want to use your “rescue inhaler.” 

I think it would be faster to call an ambulance, go to the hospital, wait to be seen in the ER, and get a nebulizer treatment. Oh well, I guess I'll have something to read next time I'm in carline.  I'd better memorize these instructions if I want to have any hope of being rescued in time...


Monday, October 21, 2013

Best Thing I Ever Ate: Comfort Food

We were talking about comfort foods the other day when I was whining about being sick and trying to be comfortable. I mentioned soup, specifically New England clam chowder. I have lots of other comfort foods, and since I've been watching cooking (no surprise there...) a lot lately, I've gotten fixated on a show called, “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”. Celebrity chefs talk about their favorites in various categories, say “with chopsticks”, or “in a deli”, or “wish I'd thought of it”. I'm going to write some posts about my favorites in various categories, and pretend I'm on the show. Today is: comfort foods.

Nothing beats a dish we call Jenocide's Favorite. It's her childhood favorite (see nickname tab if you don't remember who she is) and she and her mother have made it for me when I've had babies, or surgeries, or just been sick. It warms my stomach and my heart.

It's a simple dish. Layer of mashed potatoes, layer of hamburger gravy, corn on top. It's super easy to make, and I can have dinner on the table in under ½ an hour. Or like today, breakfast in 2 microwave minutes!

Jenocide's Favorite (also known around here as Tina's Favorite)

½ onion, chopped
1 pound of hamburger
1 packet Betty Crocker Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
lots of salt and pepper
Kitchen Bouquet Browning and Seasoning Sauce (the secret)
corn, either frozen or canned.

Chop onions and brown with hamburger, and seasonings -being generous with all the spices. Once hamburger is cooked, adjust seasonings. You will need a lot more salt than you think.

Toss in enough flour to coat meat, then add about a cup of water per pound of hamburger. (Now that I have large teenage boys, I make this with 2 pounds hamburger.) Let gravy come to a boil. Add a teaspoon or two, according to taste, of the Kitchen Bouquet. Keep adjusting seasonings.

Cook corn in microwave and mashed potatoes according to box directions while gravy is simmering.

Let people serve themselves in the proportions they prefer. If you've got OYT, then your left-overs will be short on mashed potatoes, as you can see in my bowl. That's OK, I don't do so well with lots of carbs.

It's just so deliciously simple, yet the flavor of rosemary comes through as a nice surprise, and the Kitchen Bouquet adds that “It's been on the stove all day” depth to it. Try it for dinner sometime soon. You'll be comforted.


P.S So what's this Kitchen Bouquet thing? It's a little bottle found on the bottom shelf of the store, under the display of all the dry packs of seasoning mixes. 

You know, taco seasoning, brown gravy mix, fajita seasoning, chili seasoning. Those packets you dump in your food with all the MSG and flavor crystals and make it taste so yummy without you having to have a rack of spices like some folks do...

Friday, October 18, 2013

Being Charlie's Angels

(photo credit IMDB)

When I was in 5th and 6th grade my favorite TV shows were The Brady Bunch, Charlie's Angels, Fantasy Island, and Love Boat. I took the Charlie's Angels obsession pretty far, though. My friend "Diana" and I would get together for play dates and act out episodes of the show.

First of all, I can't believe my mother let me watch those Aaron Spelling shows. I remember her (or maybe it was the Swede) saying, “You watch, there will be a woman in a bikini, for no apparent reason, in the first ten minutes of the show.” Sure enough, there was. I don't suppose 11 year old girls were the demographic he was actually going for with that move, but we sure loved the show. Action, danger, spying, detective work, undercover secret missions, spy gadgets – it was awesome.

Diana was rather bossy (um, yes, there are people bossier than me) and would decide what mission we were on, record “Charlie” telling us our mission, and play it back on her tape recorder. We'd get our equipment ready – we had a lot of stuff, most of it homemade out of other things. 

 Blocks of wood, painted and with a pipe-cleaner antenna were our walkie-talkies. We had ID cards, carefully typed up and aligned on an old, manual typewriter.  My mom even let me use an expired credit card. I tried some security by taping over the number with masking tape and putting a new number there. I'm sure that would have stopped any nefarious use...We also had check books – old checks with the account number cut off. We had great fun "buying" stuff to outfit us for each assignment.  Accessories are always an important part of the mission!

Our purses were probably our best accomplishment. We each had several. Some were real purses bought with hard-earned money, but most of them we made ourselves. We had rudimentary sewing skills, so a draw string bag could be accomplished as could flat ones, like a clutch purse. We also made a lot of stuff out of cardboard and scotch tape.

We really got into character. I was Jill (Farrah Fawcett, I was blonde after all, and aspired to have her hair). Diana, who was of Indian descent was Kelly (Jaclyn Smith). Mom even let us put on make-up for the occasion. As you can see, we were quite stylish.

Here I'm playing with Swissie, and DataBoy got in the picture. Of course my eyes are closed so you can see my nifty blue eyeshadow...

This was an undercover assignment as cowgirls. We got to carry “guns”.  That's Diana on the left (and part of the other picture from my album.)

With only a few hours of TV allowed a week, we made the best use of what we saw and had hours of fun recreating the episodes, as accurately as possible. I'm glad Momarazzi documented it all so I can show you more embarrassing childhood photos...

What made up games did you play? Did you ever watch Charlie's Angels?


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Not Just Somewhere...but SomeWHEN!

Like to travel? I sure do. Last time I traveled, I used a travel agency – and it's definitely the way to go. She took care of EVERY single detail for us, and the trip went perfectly.

Now imagine a travel agency that caters to your every need in the same way, but not only can they send you somewhere, they can send you somewhen. A TIME TRAVEL agency. Sign me UP!

I have several trips in mind, but not your traditional trips. I've written before about times in my life I'd like to go back and change, but with an opportunity like this, I'm thinking more Fantasy Island. (I'm sounding old, aren't I...) I'm talking about the ultimate historical, ring-side seat for some fascinating periods in history. OK, I'll admit it. I love math, words, AND history. (And science, but I'll admit that another day so I'm not a total nerd. OK, I'm a total nerd.)

I don't want to go back and change history – as a science-fiction buff (oops, more nerdiness...) I've seen way too many time travel movies that show the immense consequences of going back in time. No, I just want to watch. And learn. And see how it actually was.

For my first trip I'd go back to some of my favorite books of my 20s.  Regency romances.  Set in the early 19th century, these books were just treasures of witty dialogue, lavish parties, chaperoned outings, and stolen kisses. I'd love to go experience my own “season” in London and be courted by eligible bachelors. Since the travel agency has time and money at its disposal, I'm sure they could come up with employees to help me in this quest without disturbing the course of history.

For my second trip, I'd go back to feudal lots of great historical fiction there...and then maybe I'd take a trip to medieval Europe...or to the Viking era of my, the possibilities are endless.

Where did I come up with this awesome idea? I didn't. This is the premise for PK Hrezo's book Butterman (Time) Travel, INC.

Welcome to Butterman Travel, Incorporated
We are a full service agency designed to meet all your exclusive time travel needs. Family-owned and operated, we offer clients one hundred years of time travel experience. A place where you can rest assured, safety and reliability always come first.
Anxious to attend a special event from the past? Or for a glimpse of what the future holds?
You’ve come to the right place. We’re a fully accredited operation, offering an array of services; including, but not limited to: customized travel plans, professionally piloted operations, and personal trip guides. *Terms and conditions do apply
Conference us directly from our Website. Our frontline reservation specialist, Bianca Butterman, will handle all your inquiries in a professional and efficient manner, offering a tentative itinerary and free fare quote, so you can make the most of your time trip.

We look forward to serving you at Butterman Travel, Inc., where time is always in your hands.   

PK Hrezo is a native Floridian whose life could easily be a Jimmy Buffet song. She shares her home with her firefighter husband and their two children. When not creating characters and their worlds, PK can be found at her other job of rearranging passenger’s itineraries for a major international airline. The only hobbies she loves more than traveling, are reading, writing, and music, and when the four are combined she exists in total bliss.
She blogs regularly at PK HREZO: Fearless Fiction 
Twitter: @pkhrezo

Actual book launch is 11-12-13.  This is a sneak peek at the cover, and a chance to contemplate where YOU would go! 

Yes, it's a blog-hop!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Let's Get Comfortable

Let's get comfortable. I'm not feeling well (big surprise there...) and thought I'd share some of the ways that I try to make myself feel better and/or distract myself from the misery of a nasty respiratory infection (or whatever the ailment du jour might be.)

Pajamas. I have an old, faded set of pj's that I just adore. They were a big splurge on a snowboarding trip with my Amazing Aunt Risky. My favorite color, turquoise, with bears on them. And they came with a TANK TOP and long pants. Perfect for me who's always too hot, but wants the coziness of pants that are too long. I even have matching socks. Aaahh...

Pillows. I'm fairly high maintenance when it comes to pillows. I sleep on a tempurpedic cooling gel pillow, hugging a very old and broken down tempurpedic squishable pillow, with another pillow over my head. It's not really a pillow anymore, it's a bag of tangled rags after having been washed throughout its life, which as far as I can remember goes back to elementary school. But for lazing around in bed when you're sick, nothing beats my sleep number “rest and relax” pillow. On one side, it's just slanted, but on the other, it has a section of those tiny little beads right where your back goes. It's perfect for sitting up in bed and having the exact right back support.

Food. When I'm feeling lousy, I turn to soup. We usually have something homemade in the freezer, in two serving portions. Very convenient for melting when needed. I also have a thing about New England clam chowder. I'm still searching for the perfect store-bought version, but nothing compares to the seafood chowder at my favorite restaurant. Hmm...maybe it's a take-out kinda day...I can also wistfully dream about THE best clam chowder EVER, which was (surprisingly) at a hotel restaurant. OK, it was Seattle, but I've never found airport hotel food all that memorable. Until then.

Entertainment. Nothing comforts like an old movie. Also good for when I inevitably fall asleep watching it. I know how it turns out! Some of my go-to movies include Bull Durham, Devil Wears Prada, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Star Trek (JJ Abrams'), Dangerous Minds, Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, Love Actually, A Love Song for Bobby Long, The Big Chill, Princess Bride, Big Night, Hunger Games, Miss Congeniality, The Proposal, and Juno. I never get tired of them – it's like playing a favorite album.

Activities. As few as possible. And a nap on the schedule for sure.

What do you do when you're sick or just down and out (or both?) What are your go-to movies?


Friday, October 11, 2013


Oh precious October, you are here, the most welcome of months.  I want to cherish each day, yet I know you'll slip by, unlike the relentless heat of July and August which lingers long into September.

I'm always waiting and watching for you, yet you surprise me every year. I look up from my hurry-scurry schedule and leaves have begun their seasonal change of clothes. The light has a different slant. The sun comes in my kitchen window, blindingly bouncing off the cars in the driveway and I can't sit at the table, it's so bright.

Gentle breezes, cooling, refreshing breezes blow in my window. I crunch on leaves that skitter-skatter down the sidewalk. So do my tires, as the dancing leaves skip into the street where they'll have much more room for their ballet.

Oh, the colors. The bright yellow of the quivering-shivering aspen, the gentle gold of an ancient oak. 

Then there are the dancing lady trees who give us the best of three worlds, and have yellowish tinted leaves as their petticoat, then the first, almost transparent layer of their dress is golden, giving way to the scarlett-burgundy last layer. If it's still, you can't see the underclothes, but when the wind whips by in a whirl, you get a peek. She shares her secret, as she twirls with the breeze in a cotillion of her own.

Bushes burn, catching autumn slowly as the redness spreads until the entire shrub is shrouded in fire-engine red. You can watch that color spread each day, if you're looking.

And oh do I look. I roll my windows down to catch every breeze. I gawk at the parade before me. I cast my gaze towards the mountains and watch the aspen slowly emerge from the pines. Little rivers of yellow flow slowly down the mountain, until I don't have to drive very far at all to catch the show, this splendid October show.

~Tina, savoring the season

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Other Pick-Up Artists (My 500th Post!)

On Monday when I talked about the different kinds of moms that pick up their kids from school, I didn't have enough time to talk about the wide variety of others who also venture out into that danger zone each day. So we're back in my car, parked between the two schools, people watching. And let's be honest, people judging.

Lots of dads pick-up, too, as many of you mentioned in the comments.  Some would fit the categories I used for moms, but there are some other breeds worth mentioning.

The Coach Dad: Dressed in athletic gear, he's a pretty good picker-upper. After all, he's used to wrangling a large group of kids this age and making them kick, throw, hit, and carry balls of various types up and down fields. He can certainly get 5 bouncing ping-pong balls headed for practice into the minivan. He's organized. Collects all the cupcakes and saves them for after practice, puts all the art in a stacked, not-to-be-squished pile on top of the neatly arranged back-packs. The kids obviously have assigned seats because there's no fighting as they quickly get in and get buckled. Coach Dad would never double park. There are rules about this stuff, you know.

Taking the Day off Dad: He's a little confused. He has the day off, the wife went somewhere, and though she did tell him exactly what to do, he wasn't really listening. How hard could it be? But now there are cars going in every direction, kids and moms are swarming like ants all over the vicinity, the crossing guard glared at him for not crossing in the right place, and he's just going to go up to the school and find the kids. It's not a bad plan (if you don't count the jaywalking) and he eventually finds them. Wow, what nice art! Can I have a bite of the cupcake? Let's go out for ice-cream, too. They jaywalk back to the car.

Business Dad: Mom and dad are obviously juggling this schedule thing with the kids, and he's on his bluetooth as he, in the most efficient manner possible, gets the kids into the car (in the carline where he's been waiting, easiest place for his conference call). He waits patiently for his turn to pull out. The kids sneakily eat the cupcakes in the back of the car, and have already put their art in the front seat for him to notice. Which he will when he gets back to the office because it's on top of his files.

There are also sweet little grandmas who pick up their grandkids. I rarely see them with a car, but grandma has her cane, and her little yappy dog, and smiles with delight at the little one who is sharing the cupcake. The art will go on her fridge. They walk the few blocks to grandma's house, chatting happily.

Grandpa picks up, too. He's early. He stands next to his car, parked right where his daughter told him to park, scanning the area for the kids, and mentally goes over the list of who is riding home today. No one can eat a cupcake in the car, so they are to hold them carefully UNEATEN until they exit the vehicle. Back-packs and art are carefully stowed in the pristine trunk. He's relieved when he has the days' quota of kids, and signals carefully as he pulls out.

All this flurry is over in about 20 minutes.  Drive by just a tad later in the afternoon, and it's like a ghost town, and none of the above ever happened.


This is my 500th post! It's unbelievable how quickly the time has gone. I've learned SO much about how to get about in this community, learned technical stuff about how to run a blog, I've joined hops, fests, challenges, and made irreplaceable friends. Thanks for coming along on the ride. I couldn't have done it without you!

Monday, October 7, 2013

What Kind of Mom are You?

It's no secret that I don't tolerate carline particularly very well. All those parents breaking the (simple!) rules of going in order and waiting one's turn. With all the kids I pick up (two and a lot of the time three families), I've worked out a system that keeps my blood pressure down and the kids safe.

I park. Next to a beautiful park. It's within sight of the elementary school which lets out at 3:00 pm, and just up the hill from the middle school which gets out at 3:15.  My elementary charge just walks across the soccer field and gets into my car.  She usually plays games on my phone, I get some precious reading time. The boys show up eventually.

Sometimes I people watch. There are so many different kinds of moms, I get distracted categorizing them.

Perfect Mom: She has the umbrella, when it's raining, is impeccably dressed, escorts her little one, carrying his or her impossibly huge back-pack to spare the child the load. She has parked her car (legally) and helps her child into the car. She oohs and aahs over the art project, and let's the child eat the cupcake from the party.

The I Can Barely Be Bothered Mom: Also impeccably dressed, but with a whole different attitude. Stands by car door, looking annoyed, scanning the crowd for her child. Yells, “Hurry UP!” as child struggles with back-pack, lunch box, art project, and cupcake. Gets huffily into car, and puffs out cheeks while waiting for child struggling with multiple objects to climb into car, arrange stuff, buckle in, and be ready for take-off. She's double-parked, IN the carline, but now tries to sneak into the non-existent third lane to get out before everyone else.  Who knows what happens to the art or the cupcake.  They're not important.

The Frazzled Mom: She's trying to be Perfect Mom, but can't quite get it together. She hasn't found time for a shower yet, is still wearing sweats, is of course a little late, and runs across the street in front of you, usually dragging a younger child who is almost airborne at that speed. Finds pick-up child, quick hug, grabs backpack, which comes dangerously close to hitting the now almost airborne again younger child. They rush to car, late for the next errand. She throws them into the seats, buckles them in a frenzy, and roars out of spot. At least she parked in a real spot, but the cupcake doesn't make it into the car. She runs over it as they drive away. That art project didn't stand a chance. It blew away in the current created by this mad dash of chaos.

The Social Mom: She's parked so that she has plenty of room to talk to the other moms. The kids' she's picked up stand not so patiently waiting to be let into the car, yet she's yacking away, mostly bragging about herself, her kids' latest accomplishments, comparing them to other children (by name) whose achievements aren't quite as high, and ignoring all attempts by the children to get her attention. She'll “look at it later” when shown the art project, “no you can't eat that cupcake, it's got sugar”. Back packs must be held, they'll get dirty if set in the grass.

So who am I? I told you. I'm The Lazy Mom, sitting in my car, making the kids come to me, after walking a bit, carrying their own stuff. I do hand them napkins for the cupcake, though, and I do make sure I compliment their art.

Which mom (or dad...I didn't even get to the dads...) are you? Or have you identified another breed I missed?


Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday Fragments

Wow. I just looked through all my jot books (where I jot down blog post ideas, or quotes, or rants) and there's nothing there that I can turn into a whole post. I've used up all the ideas.

I remember when they were coming fast and furiously and I was constantly reaching for one of those three books that I had stashed in convenient places. Now I'm remembering WHEN I jotted those ideas. Prednisone. So that evil drug is good for at least one thing: creativity. Or maybe it's that I was spending a lot of time hiding from people so that I didn't bite their heads off and thus had time to think. And since it made me rather ADHD, I had lots of ideas bouncing all over the place.

Don't get me wrong. I have no desire to get back on prednisone. I just want some ideas to start flowing again. Meanwhile, here are some random things that won't make a whole post, but I feel like sharing anyway.

Ω Why is it that we get more excited about a song when it comes on the radio, or on Pandora, or our shuffle? I'm talking about songs that mean something to you, that you own and could play anytime you wanted. Yet you don't. Then when it comes on, you're thinking, “Oh wow, perfect song!”

Ω In the most bizarre coincidence I've experienced in a long time, Green Day's Good Riddance (Time of My Life) came on as I was writing that last paragraph. It's a very special song for many reasons, not the least of which is that The Transporter learned to play it on his electric guitar for me.

Ω Why does the school need a signed note from me about my child's absence if that same teacher was the one who sent him to the nurse because he was so visibly sick she thought he should go home?

Ω You know you've been helping your child with math way too late into the night if you end up dreaming that you have to calculate the volume of your lungs in order to breathe.

Ω If you are the lead car at an intersection with a left-turn arrow, it's YOUR responsibility to watch the light and GO when it turns green. Put down the phone and pay attention. Please.

Ω I've found that raising teenagers is challenging. Right now I'm wishing for fewer teachable moments...

Ω After talking to the nurse at my gastroenterology doctor's office yesterday, she said to make an appointment. “Tell them you're acute, so they can get you in faster.” Apparently acute means I can see them on November 13th.

Ω OYT quote of the day: “My body is a very uncomfortable place for my brain to live.” He was sick and trying to do homework.

Ω Movie quote of the day: “The world is made for people not cursed with self-awareness.” Name the movie.

What random thoughts are bouncing around your brain?


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Thanks, Ms. Ruddle

I'm a writer today because of one extraordinary teacher: Ms. Marilee Ruddle. Yes, that's her real name and I hope she googles herself and reads this.

Ms. Ruddle had a reputation for being ridiculously tough. She famously didn't give A's. Overachievers like me with a 4.0 GPA got their parents to get them a different teacher for English 11. I was not so lucky. I got Ms. Ruddle. Ha! Turns out I was the lucky one after all.

Prior to my junior year, I'd always been praised for my writing, getting good grades, winning contests, feeling confident and pleased with myself. That was soon to change. I got my first essay back with a C+/C-. Top grade for mechanics, bottom grade for content. I was stunned to say the least. Angry. Treated unfairly. And for the first time, my work had turned all red. What was happening?

This paper is all fluff and no content. You've made careless grammatical errors. I expect so much more from you.” Talk about developing insecurities. Who was wrong here? All my other teachers? Ms. Ruddle? Or was it me? I labored over the re-write of that essay. Got it to a B-/C+. Damn. This was going to be a long year.

As it turned out though, it was a fun year. We memorized poetry and recited it for a grade, during private appointments with her. THAT I got an A on. “You put such emotion into your recitation, and not only did you know them all, you seemed to enjoy yourself.” Now we're talking!

We sat in a circle and listened to an old, scratchy piece of vinyl that spun in circles before us.  It was Dylan Thomas himself, reading “Fern Hill”. 

We learned of art, it's various styles, and memorized the name of the painting, the name of the artist, and the years the artist lived. Again, we had private appointments and she held up a print, and we would say, “American Gothic, Grant Wood, 1891-1942.” (I only had to look up the years. Show me those 25 paintings today and I'd probably get a respectable B, if I don't have to recite the years. Everything else stuck. I can still recite the poems, too. Would you like to hear The Road Less Traveled or Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening?)

Fourth quarter we spent on a research paper, learning the entire process step by step. I worked my butt off on this. I remember lying in my bikini, all oiled up (we all had to be tan back then...) in my yard, books spread about me, and making index cards. I lamented the amount of work, but I persevered. I was jealous of those not in her class who had free afternoons.

I hardly dared look as she passed them back to us. I almost fainted when I saw the grade: A-/A. Unbelievable. As I paged through the ten, painstakingly typed pages, I came across one with only one line of red. It read, “This page flows quite nicely.”

I was a writer. I may not have gotten an A on my report card, but I got an A on a paper. The most important paper of the year. Ms. Ruddle liked it! I had my confidence, and I WAS a better writer thanks to her relentless pushing.

What inspired you to start writing? Maybe thinking back, and putting it on paper will give you a confidence boost. It worked for me. Thanks, Jeremy, for prompting me.


The Insecure Writer's Support Group, brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh, posts first Wednesday of the month. You can join us. There's a tab at his blog.