Saturday, February 26, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Once again I am not content to just sit, and write, and deliver a piece of fluff writing for my blog.  I have a deep need to go after the hard hitting issues of the day and take them head-on and wait for the chips to fall where they may.  Never pause to think about my safety, security, or the fact that it may be requested that I sleep on the couch, I go for it!  That's my style.  It's my burden to bear.

Today's topic: The Birthday Song and the heartbreak and devastation that it leaves in its wake.

I am going to assume that you all know the song.  I realize that I am becoming quite big in Malaysia as a writer (I am becoming quite big in America as an eater...but that's another topic) and the Malaysian peoples may not be familiar with the tune of our traditional song.  I choose not to include a sampling of it as a link for the sole reason that I think Michael Jackson's heirs might own the rights to it, and if I were to sing it I would owe them eleven cents.  That's one percent of my profits from the blog thus far.  I need to spend my money more wisely than that.  Is there a financial planner in the house?...but I digress.

The problem, as I see it, is that the song was designed with a major flaw and no set instructions for how to deal with said flaw.  As a result feelings have been hurt, relationships have been destroyed, and I have been ostracized among family and friends.  (ostRAcized is much better than osTERized...which is seen only in horrible movies about the mob...or Bobbie Flay) 

As I was saying, my main concern about the song is that it does not have a static set of lyrics!  Every time it gets sung the words change.  By Design!  And this is the point that I have an issue with.  It all has to do with syllabication (it's a word...I'm pretty sure).  When we get to the point in the song where the name is inserted I have one way of thinking and my family has another.  It makes for some tense moments but my way of thinking and singing that part is set deep down in my DNA.  I cannot change.  It doesn't make sense to change.  Let me explain (finally).

When we have finished with the two sets of "happy birthday to you" and move on to the name I mentally count the syllables in the name and adjust the song accordingly.  If, for instance, I was singing it to myself (yes, I am that desperate) I would sing, "happy birthday dear Jeh eff" and then close out the song.  We do the same thing for our son Jake and his one syllable name.  Lengthen it, and hope nobody sings out "Jay cob".   But if, like we are about to do this evening because it is my wonderful bride's birthday (hear that honey?  I called you wonderful.  Can I have the covers back now?) sing "happy birthday dear Syl vee uh" and shorten the amount of time spent on each note to make the song flow.  No problem right?  Stick with me.  And then comes my daughter.   We went ahead and threw caution to the wind.  We were young and foolish.  We named her a four syllable name.  So not only will we never find one of those mini license plates with her name on it at Yellowstone, we do not sing the song as a collective group. 

And I am not talking about the times when people have awkward birthday parties at work and invite several different groups to attend; coworkers, employers, employees, family.  Some know the celebrant as Mr. Caruthers, some as Robert, others still as Bob, his wife could be there and she calls him Sparky, and a small group of people may know him as Gladys (but that was on a business trip to Japan where he found out he was allergic to sake).  The resulting song ends up being rather sad instead of joyous.  "Happy Birthday dear/mr/car/rob/uth/spa/mmmmmummmm GLADYS!" (be honest, the most embarrasing name is always the loudest)  There are a few seconds of, "well that was interesting...did someone say there was cake?"  As bad as this is, it is always better than the collective restaurant sing-a-long.  Everyone loves to celebrate and join in when a table starts to sing to someone.  Usually the short-sighted diners join in and belt out the beginning lines at the top of their lungs...only to realize all too soon that they have no idea what to do when it comes to the name part.  "...Happy Birthday dear mummbemum Happy Birthday to you!!"  I always expect the birthday boy to stand up and shout, "Joe!  My Name is Joe!  Get it right people!" but he never does.

Now, when a name is so presumptuous as to be four syllables long, like my daughter's, it loses the ability to be picky during the singing of "Happy Birthday."  So as my family is singing to her, "happy birthday dear Kristiana" to try to squeeze it all in, I do the logical thing and omit the "dear" to save everyone a lot of strife.  "Happy Birthday Kris Tee On Uh!"  Of course that is when the strife begins.  I invariably get looks from the family.  Sylvia smacks me on the arm.  Kristiana says something about me not thinking that she is a "dear."  And the police are usually called. (it's a neighborhood thing)

I cannot help it.  I like flow.  It just makes sense to me that we need four syllables for that part of the song, her name is four syllables, run with it!  But no one else ever 'runs' and I end up stumbling over my perennial explanation about how the song should be sung in certain instances...but the nice officers never understand.

It is my contention that there should be an announcement made before the first note is sung.  "Attention!  Attention!  This is Francine!  I know some of you call her "Fran" or "Funni" but for the singing of this song we would like all of you to sing Francine.  Failure to do so will involve having your driver's license photo  blown up to poster size and held at the window of the Today Show during its next taping.  Thank you.  Let's begin."

Luckily, I do not have to think about that today as we celebrate Sylvia's birthday.  Dear + Sylvia = four syllables.  I am all set.  She is not allergic to sake and it is kind of cute when the kids sing "mo-om" when everyone else says Sylvia so I am in no real danger today.  I just hope that nobody starts to add "cha cha cha" after each line.  It could get ugly.  And I want Sylvia to have a nice time celebrating this birthday the risk of owing my bones to the Michael Jackson estate (to be placed next to his collection of others) What? Too soon?

Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday to you!!
Happy Birthday Dear Sylvia!!!
Happy Birthday to You!!!!....and many more!....(Great! There's another whole can of worms)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Our New Camera(s)

Before I begin this post let me preface it by explaining that I love words.  I try to choose words that have meaning and will sometimes evoke emotions.  I also understand the importance of words and the deep meanings that are attached to them.  For this reason I rarely say that I "love" things.  I enjoy ice cream but I love my family.  I take writing seriously and have been forced to wait and wait (and wait) at certain points in my blog writing until just the right word comes to mind.  I do not take words, or their meanings, lightly.

Having said that...I hate mimes! 

I was not reminded of this until recently when discussing what to do with visitors from Germany, but I have to tell is true.  Mimes are not my favorite.  I have some personal experience with mimes.  I do not have the sort of personal experience that our friend Yvonne has.  She, at a party once, stated, "I have seen Marcel Marceau naked."  (she was a costumer and was in the process of changing him for his performance on stage...come on people stay out of the gutter)  As I was saying, I do not have this sort of intimate encounter with them, but I was a witness to my teacher, Miss Valero, getting shot in the head by an invisible arrow at the tender age of ten.  In San Francisco, on a field trip, the couple Shields and Yarnell stopped by our class eating lunch and attacked her.  I think they should have practiced their trick many more times before taking it to the street.  He completely missed the invisible apple on her head and hit her square in the ear with the invisible arrow.  She made a complete recovery but her closest friends would say that she was never quite the same.

I did not always feel this way about these silent performers.  I have to admit that mimes have their moments of entertainment.  Once they start thinking outside the invisible box, they can be funny.  I used to watch, and laugh at, the Shields and Yarnell show on TV (but that was before my teacher was attacked). I laughed until I cried as my friends Craig and Lorna told the story about the time they were walking to their seats in a crowded theater.  A mime switched places with Lorna and walked along behind Craig holding his hand and making funny faces that the audience thought was hilarious but left poor Craig wondering what he was missing.  I wish I could have been there to see that mime, but now that I think about it I think it was technically a Charlie Chaplin impersonator so he was not a mime...but I digress.    

I have to tell you that I would not have pulled out the "h" word to describe my feelings about mimes until something happened to me personally.  And that is the story I would like to tell you today.

Sylvia and I had just purchased a new camera.  It wasn't technically "new" but it was the first digital camera that I had owned and it was more expensive than we probably should have afforded but it was a good deal so we went for it.  The mom of one of my students was becoming more serious about her photography and had an older model camera that she was willing to part with.  I could tell that Ellen really liked the camera and I could tell that it was bittersweet that she was giving this camera up, even with the prospect of a new one on the horizon.  It was awesome!  It was a gadget guy's dream.  I spent the first half hour explaining to Sylvia that we could do all sorts of photographical (I'm sure it's a word) tricks with it while she just shook her head and complained, "Great, now we will have all of these pictures and none of them will get printed onto actual paper."  (as an aside, It is really scary how accurate Sylvia is about things like this)

The school year ended, our vacation began, and we ended up in Texas visiting an old friend of Sylvia's mom who lost her during the war and was kept separate by his mother who was hiding letters...but I don't have time to write about that right now.  Someone remind me later.  OK, moving on.

In Texas we decided to go to Sea World.  The kids were thrilled.  Sylvia and I were tired.  And I was snapping pictures like nobody's business.  I kept telling Sylvia, "I can take all I want because I can just delete the ones that look terrible!"  (she was less than impressed)  I, being exceedingly cheap in addition to overly cautious, went nowhere near the "splash zone" with my new toy, in the watery arenas.  In the killer whale we sat so far up in the stands the kids asked if we were watching penguins being ridden by ants.  "No honey, that's a person on a killer whale!  It's really big.  Your dad is just a fraidy cat and doesn't want to sit closer to the show." 

It worked out well until we went to the sea lion show.  I was talked into sitting one row behind the splash zone.  I put a lot of faith into that red line painted on the ground and its ability to keep water from coming past it.  We got there early and I wrapped the camera in my jacket, a shirt, and then put my waterproof hat over the top and sat with the backpack on my lap...just in case.  We got to the show early to get these awesome seats and just when we had resigned ourselves to sitting and trying to entertain the kids for the fifteen minutes that we were waiting...enter the mime.  He came into the audience and was playing with some of the people who were there early.  He pretended to fall into the water.  He played like he was going to splash people...Oooh!  Ahhh!  And then on his last "pretend splash" he really dipped into the water and sprayed the crowd.  We were in the crowd.  We were safe.  Kristiana's popcorn was not.  It fell victim to enough water to make her cry and that bothered the man in front of us. 

He wasn't upset that she was loud.  He was upset that she was upset.  He was a playful man and wanted to get justice from the mime so he got his attention.  If you are ever in this situation and do not want to be the butt of many many water related not get the mime's attention!  The mime kept picking on the guy that was in front of me...and my new, expensive, cared for, camera!  The mime splashed playfully.  Guy in front...wet.  Me...dry.  The guy in front of us didn't let up.  The mime sprayed him with a heavy duty squirt gun.  Guy wet.  Me dry.  Still the banter went on.  The mime crossed the line at some point and while still being playful he really doused this poor guy.  Only a few drops on backpack in my lap.  We're still fine.  But then as the mime was waving his good byes and walking back to behind the stage the man in front of us jumped up, grabbed the mime, and started walking him toward the edge of the pool.  He played like he was going to drop him in...but didn't.  The crowd roared with laughter and the mime walked off a little shaken from his playful persona but still we were ready for the show.  The one with the animals that were supposed to be wet.

The show happened.  Yada yada yada. We laughed.  We cried.  It was the highlight of our day.  Ok. 

The important thing to me was that the water very respectfully stayed behind the painted limit line except for a few stray drops here and there.  I, and my very well protected camera, could live with a drop or two.  Daddy is a happy guy.  Over the loud speaker, "THANK YOU FOR COMING!  WE HOPE YOU ENJOYED YOUR SHOW!  PLEASE ENJOY THE REST OF YOUR DAY HERE AT SEA WORLD!  MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ALL YOUR BELONGINGS...ESPECIALLY THE VERY NERVOUS GUY WHO IS SITTING WITH THE BACKPACK ON HIS LAP ONE ROW BEHIND THE SPLASH ZONE

Ok, so the last part they didn't say, but they could have.  We started to gather kids, stuff, wet bags of popcorn, said goodbye to the guy in front of us as he and his wife started gathering their things, and then I began the process of unpacking the camera so it didn't fall to the ground when I stood up.  I showed it to Sylvia as if to say, "Lo!  I am the protector of the stuff!  I have done my duty!  The camera is dry!  Praise me!"

Then, in the midst of my revelry, people screamed, even more laughed, and I had no clue what was going on.  What I couldn't see was the I-can-dish-it-out-but-can't-take-it mime had snuck back out to the front of the audience and was slowly sneaking his way up toward the guy who picked him up and pretended to throw him into the pool...also known as the guy in front of me.  Guy in front of me was closer.  He saw the mime.  He ducked.  I didn't.  The entire salty contents of the bucket the mime was dumping landed smack dab on me...and my new paperweight.  I looked down in enough time to see the LCD display on the top of the camera show what looked to be Asian language characters (I have researched and found out that it actually spelled out "good bye cruel world" in Japanese) and then it was gone.  My new Nikon Cool Pix was no more.  If you look carefully in the manual for most digital cameras it says something like water and cameras do not mix.  Salt water and cameras are mortal enemies.  Can someone please play Taps for me.  I am sorry to break it to you this way, Ellen. The camera you left in my care did not live to see its next birthday.  I am sorry.

We walked up to the customer dis-service counter and were told that we knew the risks involved with bringing a camera to a place known for splashing people and they gave us a disposable waterproof camera with 18 prints on it.  "Look honey!  Film!  We have to get these printed!"  (Sylvia was not amused)  We then explained that Sea World was not known for rogue mimes and we wanted to talk to someone a little higher up the chain of command.  She assured us that they were sorry.  She told me to go and purchase a new camera and send Sea World the receipt, we would be reimbursed.  She then said that she would be speaking to their mime about his behavior.  I explained that it would be a one sided conversation.  You know, mime.  We hold no ill will toward this place.  In fact when Sylvia's cousin and her family visit us from Germany this year, that is one of the places that we might visit.  I still like the place.  After they killed our camera we still stayed to squeeze every last moment of joy out of the remainder of the day at Sea World.  

Really!  We have 18 pictures to prove it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The High Road

"With great power comes great responsibility." 
Spiderman's uncle in Spiderman

"I have no authority whatsoever."
Jeff Garrett in this blog...right now...this is the original quote...better print it out and hang onto it, it's a collector's item.

I started thinking about the effect this blog is having on the world around me.  Writing can be a powerful tool and I should be careful about how I wield that power.  And with the number of people that read my blog, the response that I am getting from various parts of the world, and accumulated power that has been given to me through this vehicle I do feel that responsibility.  I now realize that the (great power : responsibility) ratio is an important thing to consider.  When I look at all the factors involved, my best guess is that my responsibility rests comfortably in the "do whatever the heck you want to" range. 

With that sort of freedom it would be simple for me to fall from grace and begin to use this blog as a way to completely malign others with impunity.  I, Jeff Garrett, blogger, do hereby solemnly swear to take the high road.  There, I have said it.  I see myself as someone who could get away with things but will not.

I will not say that some "news" reporters have lost their minds simply because they chose to cover a story about Barbie and how, following the separation from Ken years ago, She and Ken have decided to "work things out."  I won't do it!  That sort of put down is best saved for someone who is much less mature than myself.

I will not comment about how drivers who absolutely refuse to turn on their turn signals until you are stuck at an impasse in the center of an intersection, cars waiting behind you, light turning from yellow to red, should be drawn and quartered.  I will withhold my thinking that they should furthermore have their licenses revoked, cars impounded, and be forced to stand at intersections holding a sign that says, "I do not have even a moderate amount of consideration for my fellow drivers."  I am not going to go there!  My blood pressure just won't take it.

I actually heard a super-model wannabe get criticized for her lack of judgement and poor choices only to hear her say, "People shouldn't judge a book by its cover."  It would be morally reprehensible of me to mention that this silly little twinkie was standing smack dab in the geographical center of judge-a-book-by-its-cover land by trying to be a model.  And by trying to be the "top" model, she was campaigning to be the queen!  That is not where I am going.  You cannot make me. 

It would be easy, and understandable, for me to mention that I happened across the semi-old movie, "The Quick and the Dead" on TV late last night.  It would be effortless of me to mention to a Ms. Sharon Stone that I was rooting for her to not be "the quick."  I could very easily discuss how I thought that someone was lucky that I hadn't paid good money to see this but I was going to contact a lawyer to explore the possibility of suing to get my two hours of life back.  Nay!  I say, Nay!  I will not become "that guy."

When I took a stand for good values and being a model citizen I had no idea how good it would make me feel.  It's very freeing!  Imagine all of the things that could have been said but have been mentally released from my grasp.  It will be much easier to write this blog now that I have a clearer vision of what I hope to accomplish.  I cannot imagine how people who dwell on the negative are able to live with themselves.  It is comforting to know that I have not joined that crowd.  It feels like I am being wrapped in a giant Snuggie that has come fresh out of the drier.  Because of my new direction and stand I will not mention that this backwards bathrobe and its inane commercials have been insulting the intelligence of the American people for years.  Feels good to let it go...unsaid.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Paid? Me?

April 18th, 2010.  A day that will live in...infamy?  The day I started writing my blog.  The day I pressed the "publish post" button for the first time and got a little anxious about what would happen next.  I, of course, had the far off dream of being rich and famous and being able to travel the globe while "motor" home-schooling our children.  In the short term I was hopeful that someone, somewhere, would read my odd ramblings and send me greetings from afar.  In the very short term I was hopeful that there wasn't some sort of fee that would be involved in the publishing of a free blog.  Well, meeting short term goals is good.  Right?

There are indeed no fees involved in the writing of this blog.  Unless you are an IRS agent and then I totally remodeled the front of our house to make it into a home office.  The cost was astronomical...and all of the leftover supplies and materials we donated to several local charities whose records have all mysteriously disappeared.  But I digress...

I have made several steps in the blog writing process.  I have gone from the initial hope and excitement to more realism but I am still excitable.  Not quite as much as an over-caffeinated chihuahua but I can get a little silly at times.  I remember the day that I ventured into the tabs along the top of this website.  I mean what were these things that I never even really noticed before?  Comments?  Settings?  Design?  Stats?  I have to say that I was pleased when I figured out that people in other countries were clicking onto the site.  (Pleased will be defined as: jumping and running around the house yelling, "Germany, Poland, Canada, Slovenia!" over and over again.)  It was a little thrilling (frightening) for the kids but they are resilient, right?

In writing I also wanted to make a statement about the human condition and its tendency toward the blurring of geo-political boundaries in an existential co-mingling of ... Who am I trying to kid...I wanted to write about my whacked out family, friends, and the occasional weird sign they hang in Safeway.

When I started writing I thought it would be really cool to be interviewed by Bonnie Hunt.  I have already declared her as my "celebrity girlfriend" so you have to understand that there was an ulterior motive involved.  But additionally I think that she was just about the only talk show I had a shot of getting on.  Leno would have made fun of the fact that I was a teacher and wasn't good at geography.  Kimmel would have made a joke about hitting on my wife. (understandable)  Letterman would have made a joke about hitting on my daughter. (eww)  Miss Hunt would have seen me, regular guy, teaches kindergarten, sister who's a nurse, just trying to make people smile...for free...that is the type of person she had on her show.  I miss it.  And that is one goal that shall not be met. 

I also went from saying, "It's silly but you could check out my writing." to "You think that was funny?  You should read my blog!"  I actually wrote myself out of conversations.  I would be talking to a friend and begin a story only to have them say, "Yeah, I read all about that."  Which, unfortunately for me, meant that I had nothing more to say and usually ended up talking about how the Bears were doing.  Not the team, the animals in Jellystone...I have an affinity for Yogi and Boo Boo.

But ultimately I was hoping that my little corner of the internet might net me a profit and maybe even get picked up into a newspaper.  And while I have not heard anything from the Times, the Post, or the Argus (our local paper where it was good enough for Ray Orrock so it would be good enough for me) so I have nothing more than to hope for the best in the money department.  I should be completely honest and say that I hadn't heard from the newspapers mostly because I hadn't contacted them, ever.  And this is when I tell you that I have made it to achieve one of my goals.  I have just received a letter, in the real mail, that asked me for information regarding how to send me my first check resulting from the blog.  I have always said that I would not call myself an author until I got paid to write...I may just be able to do that soon.  Of course there are those who say that in order to consider yourself being paid as an author you should be able to make a living at it.  The best I can figure is that I will be getting a check for approximately $9.23 after only ten months of writing.  I'm not sure I can make stretch that enough to live on but it will make for an interesting decoration to hang on the wall.  My first check!  Well it'll be a copy of my first check.  I'm cashing that sucker as soon as it arrives.  Papa wants to go to the movies!

My supportive family has been helping me along with my dream.  They allow me to zone away while I write and I try to only do that while they are otherwise engaged.  They provide me with endless good humor and plenty of material to write about (some of which has self-imposed statutes of limitations so keep reading for years and I can write about the kids when they move out)  My sister and my dad have even gotten me books that deal with the subject of writing.  Dad got me one about writing fiction.  Publishing ideas.  Sis got me one that was essentially, "How to make money with your blog."  Cool!  Problem is, when I opened the book it said something like, "Step one:  Have a point."...  Crap...I guess I can try again tomorrow.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I Slept With A What?

Now before my loyal readers, either of you, get worried about the title and cancel their plans to make a pilgrimage to my hometown this see where the magic happens of course, let me assure you that I have not taken a turn for the bawdy.  My blog is, and will forever be, "G" rated.  Although there was that time I got a little testy with the TSA over people being unclothed, photographed, and/or groped while traveling to see grand-ma-ma.  But even then I only dipped into the "PG 13" range..."PG 11" if you get right down to it.  But I digress...

This is a story that, again, I love to tell.  I usually drag it out when I am camping with the scouts or the youth group at my church but this last weekend with junior highers in the snow the situation didn't arise.  Now the story is just itching to be told.  It is a story of courage, heart, true friendship, and undergarments.

Way back when I was in junior high I was lucky enough to go to camp with my friend for a week.  It was a Christian camp named Alliance Redwoods and it was a blast.  It was where I spent the first nights away from my family.  It was where I saw my first shooting star.  It was where I learned what a true friend would do when it came right down to it. 

Mike was my buddy.  It was on the condition that Mike was going that I agreed to go to camp at all.  He was more adventurous and had gone the year before and survived.  I guessed I could try it.  We were always together, Mike and I.  This was back in the day when boys were allowed to ride miles to their friends' houses in the morning and not be seen, or heard from, again until the streetlights came on.  And even then it was only to check in, show that we were alive, and then go out again until goodness knows when.  This was who I would be relatively comfortable with when I went to camp.

At Alliance Redwoods there was the usual camp stuff.  There were rustic cabins, hiking trails, swimming pool, and one night when they "let" us sleep outside in the woods.  I grew up with practical joker cousins.  I had heard stories about mythical creatures that roamed the woods looking for little boys who step outside the ring of light from the lantern, to water a tree, and are never heard from again.  But I couldn't let anyone know, so off we went marching into the woods.  Carrying our sleeping bags we hiked for what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was probably about 300 yards from our cabin. 

This is the point in the story where one of my ever-helpful children will remind me, "Isn't this when you tripped over a stump?" 
"Yes, kids, this is where I tripped over a stump.  It was a stump that was about two feet wide and three and a half feet tall and everyone laughed because only a moron would not see a stump in the path that was that big...ha ha ha...can I get back to the story now?"  My kids are always so helpful.

We set up "camp" right there on a hillside in a clearing that was just big enough for eight boys and one counselor to lay side by side, in only their sleeping bags, for the night.  The counselor talked about this and that.  The other boys tried to talk about girls and mythical boy-stealing creatures but the counselor steered them, thankfully, away from that.  I had no actual experience with either at this point in my shy little life...and couldn't imagine any in the foreseeable future. 

As we were laying on our backs looking up at the sky, the conversation turned to the wonderful glory of God and how awesome the stars were and that shooting stars were cool.  I said, "I've never seen a shooting starrrrr." And as my words were hanging in the air...a shooting star started on the left and moved perfectly across the entire clearing, from horizon to horizon.  It was magical.  I have only seen one shooting star that came even close to how perfect this amazing meteor was...but that is a story for another day.  (someone remind me that I was going to write about it...ok?)

And now I am finally to what I really wanted to talk about.  Ever since the first night of camp, when I got into my sleeping bag, I noticed that there was something in there with me.  No problem.  I knew: a) it was not alive, b) it wasn't formerly alive, and c) it wasn't coming out of the bottom of my sleeping bag for anyone else to see. 

I would like to explain that I have been with enough groups of boys while camping to know that there is nothing funnier than underwear.  There is also nothing more embarrassing.  When I was a chaperon for Jake's science camp a few years back I was having the boys straighten up.  There was a pair of tidy whiteys in the middle of the floor.  Cabin, spotless...except for that.  No one claimed it.  We seriously threw them away because not a soul would admit that it belonged to them.  I even tried the "we'll turn off the lights and you just run out and grab them" trick.  Nothing.  And then I told them this story.

So now I have revealed what I suspected.  I figured it was a pair of underwear that I left in there accidentally when I changed clothes on one of the numerous times that I had a sleepover at Mike's house.  Having everyone see this would have been torture.  They would have had to call my parents to come pick me up.  I spent the entire week not sleeping because of nerves and having my feet bump into something that was not coming out to see the light of day until I got home...I thought. 

Back to the hillside, the other boys, and my buddy Mike.  The counselor woke everyone up and said that if we didn't get moving we would miss breakfast at the camp (always a motivator).  Being a  hungry sleep deprived junior high school aged boy I was, almost by definition, brain damaged.  We all got up and started to shake our sleeping bags to clear away the dirt, wood chips, spiders, ants, centipedes, scorpions, and unfortunately, underwear from our sleeping bags.  There in the woods I lost my mind and grabbed the tail end of my sleeping bag.  I brought it up once, down, up again, and down...with enough force to wriggle loose and then fling the offending nuisance out of the bag.  It was as I expected...underwear.  The problem was, it was far worse than I could have imagined.  It was, in fact, my worst nightmare!  You see, it was not mine!

In the slow motion of that moment I saw my sister's double-barreled slingshot go tumbling through the air and land softly on the ground about twenty feet away.  This is where the men are separated from the boys folks.  With the skill and determination of a hardened Marine, Mike dove and landed on the bra like he was protecting his platoon from a live grenade.  He had seen what had happened, assessed the situation, and neutralized the offending article before anyone was even aware of what happened.  I ran over with my bag, shoved it inside, and rolled up my sleeping bag all the while giving Mike eyes that hopefully said, "THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU!!!!"

The rest of the week was awful.  Had word gotten out I would have been ruined.  I toyed with the idea of throwing it away.  I couldn't do that to my parents...they paid good money for our things.  I even considered pretending to find it and make a big joke out of it.  Humor?  As a defense mechanism?  That'll never catch on.  So I toughed it out.  I had to knowingly climb into a sleeping bag with "one of those."

I am also sworn to never let my sister live it down.  If you would like to comment to her directly her name is Susan and she reads this blog.  I'm thinking of embroidering this story onto a pillow for her...or better!  A sleeping bag!

Now for a public service announcement: 
I am asking all of you to please, for the sake of your children, label your sleeping bags.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Perfect Timing

There are few defining moments that are instantly recognizable.  Usually it takes time, distance, perspective, and years of therapy to show you the lessons of today.  Seldom are you able to walk away from an occurrence with usable insight.  I experienced one my kindergarten class.  I knew at once that a.) I was in the right place, and b.) this kid was sent by angels.  I tell you, this kindergarten stuff just writes itself.

I have been having a bit of difficulty in my class lately.  I attribute it to, a lack of sleep, refined sugar, MTV, poor hygiene, low self esteem, the tides, the moon being in the seventh house, irregularity, the weather, South Park, and the cancelling of Bonnie Hunt's talk show...but enough about me.  The kids have also been pretty loopy lately.  It seems that no matter what I try there is always a faction that is bent on not learning and taking a group of friends with them.  I have to admit, there are times when the kids leave for the day and I just have to sit there and think, "for this I gave up being a crash test dummy?"  I pull myself together, dust myself off, take a Silkwood shower in hand sanitizer, and get ready for the next day.  I also look forward to times like I had today.  They are like the little non-monetary bonuses that come with the teaching profession.  They rank right up there with June, July, and August and I normally don't like to share things that happen with current students but I will make an exception for something this momentous.

Let me set the scene:

All 29 of my five and six year olds are sitting on their squares on the carpet (criss-cross-applesauce) and I am going over the calendar, the latest sentences, the newest words that we should all know, and the letter of the week ("K" if you really must know).  I am on a roll and trying to keep the kids interested by moving myself from one wall to the next to the next.  Each time I have the kids "scootch" to look at whatever I am pointing at now.  They usually love this activity and I try to stay one step ahead of losing their interest by jumping from one spot to another.  I haven't told them that they are moving in 90 degree increments (that comes later...right after we memorize the first act of Othello) but they have fun doing the scootching. 

This morning I was moving back and forth and jumping and I had them in the palm of my hand for about ten minutes.  When it happened.  This is the kind of thing that changes lives.  I was there.  It was great.  I understood the importance of this immediately.  I was moved by the magnitude of the event.

So, back to the class.  Like I said, I was moving from place to place and trying to keep the majority of the kids looking at me and not at the giant gob of bodily fluid that invariably enters into the class whenever I have some momentum going.  Seriously, I should have t-shirts printed that say, "We are one snot bubble away from pandemonium!"  I would sell one to every teacher on the planet!  But I digress...

So here I am, moving my overfed frame as agilely as I dare and pointing my little plastic pointer at various things on the walls (it's shaped like a gloved hand on the end of a stick...that's the kind of guy I am) when all of a sudden I misjudged my final step.  My foot caught on one of the many racks that grace my room and I started to fall.  Seeing as I have an extensive history in ballet, gymnastics, kung fu, and yoga I started to go down like a stone.  Picture the dancing hippos from Disney's Fantasia, only not nearly as graceful...but I did have on the tutu  In my extreme desire to not squish a child beyond recognition I lifted the offending foot and slammed it down as hard as I could.  So now we have a giant (compared to the average kinder) teacher falling toward the class and then bringing his size fourteen orthopedic shoe slapping down to the ground.  Let's just say, there was a noise and the kids did notice.

Now I have tripped, fallen, stomped and barely saved myself from having to explain why one of my students was now flat.  And one of my little darlings, without missing a beat, says, "That's gonna leave a mark."

Dude!!  Are YOU in the right class!  You made the blog!  Gotta love em!