Tuesday, November 24, 2009

O Christmas Tree(s)

Ed and I have not yet succumbed to purchasing an artificial Christmas tree. I know that day may come. We are still holding out and purchasing a fresh tree already cut, or occasionally, selecting one from a tree farm. We have a lot of Christmas tree stories in our family.

There was a time that Ed and I attended an annual Christmas party hosted by one of his clients. Somehow on the way to these parties we would talk about stories to share and what evolved were stories surrounding Christmas trees. It became a tradition for Ed to share a Christmas tree story at this holiday party.

One such story was the year his father purchased an enormous tree, too large to stand up on its own. It had to be wired to something to stand up (we've had to do this very thing ourselves on a couple of occasions). In any event, what happened that year was that his older sister brought her boyfriend's parents over to meet her parents. The story goes that when they arrived the tree came loose and fell on his mother which was embarrassing and hilarious.

A tree story we were just remembering this evening was around 15 years ago. Ed had a client whose parents had sold their home and land. At one time someone had planned to raise Christmas trees. Apparently the trees were planted but had not been kept up, so there was a number of acres of trees that had not been trimmed but had been allowed to grow wild. Since the land was going to be used for commercial purposes and the trees would be lost in the development, we were invited to come and pick a tree. Being a younger single-income household with four children, we took advantage of the offer.

Off we went all bundled up to traipse all over trying to find THE perfect Christmas tree when none of them were even close to perfect. We also didn't do a very good job of judging the size we should get because (since again the tree was going to be free) we found the largest tree we could find (picture the Clark Griswold tree from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation). We could barely get it in the house and then we could barely walk into the living room where we positioned it.

While searching for our tree the girls came across the carcass of a dead deer..just an anecdote to add to that year's life experiences. While we were searching for our tree, and as is typical of a family searching for THE tree, all the girls found their own favorites and were fussing a bit over which to take home, when Ed and I suddenly realized we could take five trees if we wanted, and well, that is exactly what we did.

Each of the girls had their own tree. Since we didn't have stands for five trees, we hammered boards across the bottoms of the smaller ones and since they wouldn't be getting a source of water, didn't allow the girls to put electric lights on them. They had to make paper chains, etc. to decorate their trees, but yes, they each had a tree of their own in their bedrooms.

A great memory.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Am I Being Tested?

I have had a couple of rough days. They happen infrequently, thankfully. Heh! That's it...a number of my family and friends are posting on Face book what they are thankful for, so maybe today's should read I'm thankful that days like the last two don't happen all that often.

I got snapped at about a little thing (at least it was to me) that was an error of omission on my part and unintentional (those are the most hurtful kinds of snaps to receive), one daughter was in an accident (her fault) and I fear the mother of the other driver is going to be one of those who has her son go around wearing a neck brace. I quite by "accident" found out from the officer at the scene that when I left the scene, the mother of the young man (who was positively a gentleman, even though his mother is apparently not a lady) followed him around trying to convince him he was hurt.

I talked to another daughter at around midnight last night, sobbing because of her nasty roommate who has absolutely no respect for the fact that my daughter also lives in the dorm room, bringing people in at all hours, out drinking, never brushing her teeth or taking showers, making the room smell because she smokes and is dirty...you get the picture?

Today I had to rush in and have some of my mid-quarter Progress Reports rerun because I had mistakenly misread or something...the cutoff date for having grades entered into our program and therefore had to adjust some grades. I was in the process of doing that yesterday when my daughter called me to come to the scene of the accident.

I have been quite a bit behind in some things at school. It happens. I'm used to that; but today I fell even further behind when our priest came to visit. Now don't get me wrong; I am thrilled our new priest wants to be involved in the school, but someone needs to explain the situation to him. We have a schedule, we have lessons to teach; time is always the enemy to a teacher. It is THE most challenging thing when it comes to teaching...time management. Even five minutes makes a huge difference to a teacher. Minutes are EXTREMELY VALUABLE in a classroom. He visited my classroom for about 45 minutes or so; he wanted to answer questions from my students. Do you know the kinds of questions first graders come up with?

They are frequently:

1. Not questions at all, but stories or statements (like my mom's cousin's birthday is on Thanksgiving).

2. Questions they couldn't understand even if the priest could answer them himself (like when was the universe created...and being a former engineer, our priest actually tried to answer all the questions like that, in length...like taking five minutes to ten minutes to answer...and by the time he finished he had long lost that child's attention).

3. Repetitive...and even so our priest didn't point out that they were repetitive but answered them again...and at the same length.

4. Embarassing....(I got REALLY lucky this time)

This didn't just happen to me. I think it happened to at least three other teachers. It was exhausting. Oh, also...we had our little letter cards out spread all over the tables getting ready to practice some spelling and by the time he left the kids had theirs all mixed up with their neighbors.

While he was there, one little girl kept putting her foot up on her chair and you could see her underwear, a little boy kept doing what boys (and men) do, and adjusting himself...making me think he had to desperately go to the restroom, some of them became totally uninterested and pulled out a book to read, etc., etc.

And OF COURSE...I didn't know what to do...to say...do I stop him, do I tell him we are out of time, do I tell him they have to probably go to the bathroom, do I cut him off? I mean after our principal, he is sort of the big boss. Will she say anything to him? I think he is a good guy. I just don't think he understands...and.....again...he is a former engineer...they sort of think like lawyers and that is something I know about.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Well, Maybe Not

Did I not write yesterday that my dogs are my new children? I don't think I should have said that.

My dogs don't wreck cars.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Confess: My Dogs Are My New Children

It occurred to me tonight how much my dogs have become my children. I had an appointment to get both of them groomed. I'd do it myself but both of these dogs require professional grooming really...a Goldendoodle who is fairly curly and mats easily, and a Mini-Schnauzer who likewise needs a specific kind of cut to not look weird and also can get matted...of course it is nice to have the hair pulled out of the ears so they won't get infections, get their claws trimmed, etc.

To make a long story short, I messed around at the book store, ran some errands, ate dinner and read by myself in a nice quiet booth and returned to the groomers around the time they thought the dogs would be done.

As I pulled into a parking spot right in front of the grooming place, I could see Roxie standing on the table through the big picture window. She sort of looked like she was looking out to see who was out there as I pulled in, turned off my lights and engine. Right away I said to myself there is no way I'm going in there. If she sees me she'll start having a fit. It reminded me of preschool.

Just a small thing, I know; but it's a fact. There are other things as well...loving it when they come and greet me when I get home, getting excited over a treat, doing little tricks..doing what I want in order to get a treat...yeah...they are just like kids.

They've recently gotten into the habit of sneaking into bed with me too when I'm asleep. Well, sometimes I'm aware. I don't sleep that soundly; but there have been times when I've been completely unaware too. They must be very careful getting on the bed because I honestly don't wake up if they jump up. The other morning I opened my eyes to find Captain with his head on the pillow...one more good reason to keep them groomed.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Holiday Yard Decorations

Ok..so after you read this, if you are mad at me, please don't be...but then I guess if I am going to blog, I have to not worry so much about that.

For some reason I really dislike the recently popular (by recently I mean the past few years) yard decorations that consist of a blown up figure...a football player, a giant Santa, a Thanksgiving turkey, etc. I don't know why, but they strike me as cheap imitations of real holiday decorating...the kind that requires dad to climb a ladder and hang lights (hopefully not staple holes in their house the way Chevy Chase did in Christmas Vacation, one of my favorite holiday comedy movies).

I'm not such a scrooge that I think they should be outlawed or something. If I had young children now, I'd probably put one in my yard too. They are in my neighborhood where there are small children or day cares. I'm not going to go by and shoot a bebe gun at them or anything.

I also worry about the environment. Are they recyclable when they no longer work? Or are there landfills out there full of deflated Santas, Frosty the Snowmen, turkeys, Halloween pumpkins, and numerous pro football team players or mascots?

I think it comes from having been born in the 50's and coming of age in the 60's. It's about making memories. One of the best holiday memories I have is my dad hanging lights on the frame of our house and on the bushes. You know, come to think of it we did have these stand up plastic (but hard plastic not the blow ups) lanterns that would light up when you plugged them in.

Oh never mind..

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Book Lost, and Found

As an elementary school student I recall vaguely a field trip to The Indianapolis Children's Museum. I don't remember the details clearly, but have an image of the space I was in, including the huge model of a dinosaur. At the time I would have visited, the museum would not have been what it is today at all. My visit would have taken place at the same site, but at that time the museum would have been housed in the St. Clair Parry mansion. There are some books around that travel the history of the museum and it is pretty fascinating in that it really began with one woman's vision. She was Mary Stewart Carey, a civic and social leader who had the vision and inspired the founding of the museum in 1925. It was originally housed in an old carriage house on the near north side, in the Garfield Park shelter house, and then in the actual home of Mary Stewart Carey from 1927 to 1946. After that it moved to the site where it is now located, but was housed in the St. Clair Parry mansion, eventually demolished and replaced by the current building, which has also been expanded and improved.

Some time later in my elementary school, fourth grade to be specific, my teacher (Mrs. Mary McCarty) gave me a book as a prize. Inside she wrote a dedication to me as the winner of the good citizenship award. That meant so much to me. She was a pretty strict, conservative teacher and it was my favorite grade. One of the things that stands out in my memory is the unit of study we did on Switzerland. We had a celebration and had hot chocolate, tasted chocolate from Switzerland, etc. It was much like what today would be called a project based or virtual learning experience; given that this would have been in the mid 60's, she was a teacher ahead of her time no doubt.

You may be wondering how the two paragraphs above are related. I'll continue. As it happens, I kept the book into my college years. I finished school, got married, started my family, and went back to school to earn an education degree. I ended up working part time at the Children's Museum coordinating birthday parties in the computer lab on weekends. One weekend I went to the gift shop and picked up a history of the children's museum. As I read it I learned about a woman, Grace Golden, who directed the museum from 1942 to 1964. It mentioned a children's book she had written, Seven Dancing Dolls. It was then it hit me that this was the book my fourth grade teacher awarded to me and that it should be around somewhere. It was no doubt out of print, and I'd like to be sure I kept it as a keepsake and collectible. (My passion for children's books was already there, even before I was actually teaching...thanks to my mother.) To be sure I went to Central Library and it was listed as being in the rare book room. I was allowed to go to that room to see it (it was a noncirculating book), but the librarian discovered that it was missing. That's a shame. I don't know if they ever found it.

I asked my mom to look around and she said I could come over and check the boxes in the attic. I never found it. Then I thought perhaps it had gotten mixed up with a former roommate's possessions and contacted her. She couldn't recall it either. Whatever happened to it, it disappeared. I did start looking for another copy though and eventually ran onto one from a rare book seller somewhere. I didn't pay too much, probably no more than $20 but it was worth it to me. The copy I have, the one you see above, is in excellent shape. It has the dust jacket intact and is library quality but with no stamping or marks anywhere. Regretfully, it isn't the one my teacher inscribed to me, but it still holds the memory for me.

Grace Golden wrote the book as a result of a year she spent in Poland studying museums. Her story takes place in Poland when it was divided. It is about a little princess who lived in a palace. Whenever her father would travel, he would bring this princess a present. One present was a set of tiny dolls. When the dolls were placed on a piano and the piano was played, the vibration would make the dolls dance. The princess gave all the dolls names, and one of them was named for Frederic Chopin after visiting and playing the piano for the princess and her family. When he left, one of the dolls accidentally fell into his pocket. Eventually he returned the doll to her along with some special music he wrote for her...her very own waltz called "The Waltz of the Seven Dancing Dolls." It is really a sweet story; perhaps not a classic or famous or well known, but it holds such memories and meaning for me and it has some historical significance, at least locally.

So this is just a little story of an experience with a book, and how it wove itself in and out of my life, and back in again; how I lost it and found it again (albeit not the original), and in doing so reconnected with a very important memory in my life.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Reading Tastes

I guess you could call me eclectic when it comes to what I read. First, I don't have as much time to read during the school year as I do during the summer, but I do make sure I am reading something all the time.

I read a wide variety of things. Whether this is normal or not, I don't know. First of all, I read a lot of picture books. I collect picture books, old and new, and hope one day to have those to share with grandchildren or just to pull out and enjoy myself. I know some of the books I have held onto meant a lot to my girls when they were growing up. It's funny how a book, like music, can send a person zooming back to a certain time, place or event...association.

I also read, and enjoy doing so, professional books. They just keep publishing them. I wish they would stop, but that wouldn't be good. There is always something new to learn as a teacher. I particularly have a passion for professional books about literacy...anything reading and writing. I have a number I have purchased but haven't yet read. Like fiction, I just can't keep up.

When reading as an adult, I think I have rather quirky tastes. For one thing, I don't mind reading stories that my husband would call "depressing" meaning that they have sad parts. Sometimes they don't even end happily. I like these types of reads because I believe they have things to teach me. For instance, I loved reading Angela's Ashes and Teacher Man. I love stories about people who were born into adverse circumstances and yet made it, likely because of those very circumstances which made them strong.

Every once in awhile I discover a particular author and stick with him or her. When on a trip during my 25th wedding anniversary, the condo we rented had a few novels of Joyce Carol Oates sitting around. I started in on one of those which led me to another and another. I still have a lot of hers I could pick up. She is extremely prolific, and I have to say when I saw a picture of her on the flap of one of her novels, she looked exhausted. No wonder. If anyone was to ask me what her novels are about, I really wouldn't know how to answer. So I guess I like fiction that doesn't necessarily fall into a particular category like romance (blech) or mystery.

The other day my daughter posted a comment on Facebook that she had met Colum McCann and that was very strange because I just bought Let The Great World Spin. I started it a few weeks ago and then put it down for lack of time. What I read did intrigue me and my daughter's comment reminded me to pick it up again. On the surface it is about a tightrope walker who walked between the twin towers in 1974. It's about a lot more than that of course. I don't always read off the New York Times or any bestseller list. In fact I prefer not to do that. I've never read Dan Brown.

I like memoir and biography. Even though I said I don't usually read the latest fad, I did recently buy a few Jodi Picoult books because they were on that table with the signage buy two get one free. I read her first but haven't read another. Everyone is reading them, but not me. I suppose I'll get around to them but since they are a bit of a fad I'm not all that interested. I'm not trying to be a literary snob; it's just how I feel. I'd never judge anyone for what they are reading.

On occasion I don't want to read what is a great piece of literature. My sister and I took a trip a year ago to Amish country in northern Indiana. It was a quiet, peaceful, and fun getaway. I picked up a trilogy by a not well known and not famous author who writes simple stories about the Amish life. They are sort of Amish romances I guess, and I actually have enjoyed those, although I certainly won't continue to read that author. There was something about them that made me appreciate the simple things and they were very relaxing to read. They made me want to be "plain."

I also like books about animals, most recently the one about the library cat and the one about Marley. We all know how those are going to end, but I read them anyway. Of course as a child there was My Friend Flicka, Black Beauty and National Velvet.

I grew up going to the library almost weekly and bringing home much more than I could ever read. Now I do that when I go to a bookstore, an expensive habit but one I don't feel guilty about. I must admit I don't visit the library the way I used to. Libraries aren't the same anyway. I like the old ones, with hardwood floors and rooms that echo with your footsteps, and drawers you could pull out and sit on a table to search through cards for books; I like it when librarians stamp the back of your book with the return date, etc. I'm just old fashioned that way; I miss those things. I do miss smelling books. I use to love the smell of library books. Am I weird? The main reason I don't go often is that I want to see what is newly published and they aren't always available at the library. At the bookstore I can look in the sections that show recently published fiction and nonfiction, and I can see what employees recommend. I guess the library has tried to do some of that.

There is only one thing I haven't done yet, and it is something I would REALLY like to do...be invited to, or start, a book/reading club.

P.S. I collect. I have some out of print children's books. I have a volume of letters Louisa Mae Alcott and her father wrote back and forth (very rare I think), old school books, my own primers, and even some of the Little Golden Books and Elf books with which I associate some childhood memories. When I look at one of my old Little Golden Books about a drum majoriette, I can feel myself sitting on my mother's lap and I can hear her voice reading to me.

P.P.S. Some of my favorite books: Alice in Wonderland (makes me really relate to how much kids loved Harry Potter...fantasy, Little Women, Carolyn Haywood Betsy books, The Bounty Trilogy (if THAT isn't quirky for a teen to love, then what is...but I did..still do...love the story of The Bounty), Rebecca (gothic romance is just fine), Forever Amber, the Clan of the Cave Bear series, oh dear I'd better stop now.

Did I mention I love to buy interesting looking cookbooks, even though I'm not much of a cook? I'd love to hear about anyone else's reading life and interest in starting a reading group.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Random Weird Websites

I can't imagine what you are thinking. Did you ever just type in something in your google or other search engine box and see what you come up with? Only someone with too much time on her hands, or in my case someone who is avoiding being productive, would do such a thing.

Over the summer while on vacation, my silly daughter Kelly showed me some really hilarious websites that had some really hilarious products. I found one myself recently called Strange New Products. Yes, I found there what you see above, the Hillary Clinton Toilet Bowl Brush. Ok, I guess if you are a Republican this would be funny. Don't worry if you are a Democrat. They have a George W. Bush...er brush..as well. There are some other items of bathroomesque humor at the site.

What else? How about paying $24.95 to not have to go to church or donate or offer your time, talent, and treasure in order to purchase up front a Reserve a Spot in Heaven Kit. No kidding...who buys this stuff? They even offer a refund if heaven renegs on your reservation. I wonder how you collect and what difference it would make anyway.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

It's Not Happenin'....

I often told myself when my girls were little that one day I'd have an organized home. It helped that we actually had to go through the process of leaving one home and moving into another. We built almost five years ago. When we went through that process we got rid of so much STUFF. Well, it has happened again...the accumulation of stuff over time. I don't get it...well, I guess in reality I should.

I may not have young children any longer, BUT I do have the stuff that comes from having daughters move into college, out of college, into dorms, out into apartments; plus I have a mother-in-law who moved into assisted living so we have a lot of her stuff here too.

One of the things I wanted was an attic space. I love our attic space. It is the kind of attic you can imagine loving as a kid. I am hoping that one day my grandchildren can go up there and dig through boxes and find what they think is cool stuff. Right now it does have some cool stuff, but it also has some not-so-cool stuff...in other words...junk.

I thought that when my kids grew up I'd be better at staying on top of clutter. Maybe I am a little better, but since I actually had a weekend of no commitments, I decided to get to some of the projects I set aside. I've started attacking some already junky drawers and such. How does that happen...even though I don't have any little ones any longer?

Big announcement: I have to face the fact that it is ME...not my daughters...and ED (who is much more of a keeper than I am). I managed to attack the drawer in my bathroom vanity where I keep make up and jewelry and such. Since it took me quite awhile to get that done and figure out what to do with the stuff I didn't need (much of it got thrown away), it is seriously clear that it will take weeks and weeks of having no commitments to get through it all.

It's probably not happenin'....by the time I get through them all, the first ones will be full again.

Hmmm...what I really should have done? Gotten rid of a bunch of Ed's junk since he is out of town. He'd never have noticed.

While I want my attic to maintain it's "cool appeal" for future use, it does definitely need some cleaning out, trips to donation centers, and organization. Maybe I'll take a before picture of it and get it posted...who knows whether the after picture will ever get posted in my life time.

It's not happenin'...at least not in the near future.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Halloween '09

He'll kill me. Well, he doesn't blog and he doesn't read blogs, unless I put it in front of his face and say "Read this" and then only when he gets around to it. That said, here we are in our Halloween costumes, which we haven't done in years. We are fire and ice. I guess you can probably figure out which is which. He started it all.

On Friday night he set his agenda and expected Erin and me to follow it. As he was leaving to go and work at the local Halloween haunted hayride, he mentioned that Erin and I should make zombies for the front porch. He did bring in some old jeans and shirts of his, and left it to us. We both stood looking at each other, a little frustrated. Our expressions said it all. Here he goes again...giving us a job to do and then removing himself from having to be involved. Not that we had to do it (and I mostly did it myself), I started stuffing the clothes to make bodies.

When he finally returned, he had brought some masks from the hayride which weren't being used, and we added those for the heads. He even got an old stuffed bear out of the attic and put a mask on it. We ended up with two male zombies, a female zombie which sort of resembled Mrs. Bates from Psycho, and a zombie faced stuffed bear. So that started it all.

The next morning when I stopped at Wal-Green for a couple of things and noticed a ton of Halloween stuff on sale. I ended up buying a spider, a spider web, two large plastic images of skeletons you could hang in the windows, and some tombstones for the yard. I also started looking at the hair sprays and things. I hadn't decided to dress up, but got a little inspired. Ed actually went out on his own later and found the red stuff to be the opposite of me. If we were going to be at home alone I guess we might not have done so much, but we had two couples over for a light dinner and to help pass out treats. I was also expecting some of my students as well.

It turned out to be a lot of fun. I guess we are now reverting back to childhood..kind of scary. Scarier than the yard and porch decorations we are. The fun thing is that it reminds me of when we were first dating. We went to a number of Halloween parties over the year. For our first I was a basket of dirty laundry. We cut holes in the bottom of a laundry basket so I could step inside, I stuffed the basket with clothes, laundry soap, etc. He went as Mr. Clean, all in white, and wore a skull cap. For another party we were The Blues Brothers.

One year a friend had a Victor, Victoria party. That's definitely another post! Here are some more pics.


Ok, I'm going to be a copycat...or try. I just read my daughter's blog, which is much more interesting and hip and young than mine; also a friend mentioned to me yesterday that she noticed I hadn't posted much lately. It's twoooo. Not only haven't I posted, I haven't read those I follow either. I'm going to try to change that.

As I mentioned, I just read my daughter's blog, Morgendorf, and she mentions it is National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo). Well she didn't call it DaNaBloPoMo (Daily National Blog Posting Month), so I don't know if I'll post daily (which is her goal), but I'll try to get going more regularly again. I might even do more than one a day to catch up.

(One note of frustration: Recently I accidentally put Windows Vista on my computer....well, it wasn't actually me but that is or could be another post. Since that happened, I'm having a little trouble getting blogspot to do what I want. I can't just click in the body of the post and move about. If I get off track I have to click myself back to the title, tab into the body of the post, and use the arrow to move where I want to be...very frustrating and enough to make one stop posting!)

Maybe my life is just too boring to post more regularly...but you know, I'm finding it isn't such a bad place to be.