Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Just Because You're Paranoid...

If you haven't already, many of you will be questioning my sanity after this post.  I tend to lean toward worry.  I can't help it, it's in my genes.  I don't let it spoil my day or keep me from doing things, but worry wiggles its way into my subconscious much of the time.  Most of the time I try to harness it into positive avenues.  If I can see a hole in the plans being made, it is helpful to bring them to light and correct them before things fall apart...right?  Or maybe I am just a butt-in-ski.  We'll let the history books determine that.

When we are leaving the house I am usually the one who runs around checking to see if the windows are shut, the doors are locked, the stove is off, the lights are off, the dog is secured in his area, the dragon has been get the idea.  I have not slipped into turning the lights on and off thirteen times (but I can understand it at times).  I generally have no problem going through my day and have even awakened to a car door that was left unlocked, a garage door that was open, and even a key left in a lock, without having a mild to moderate sized seizure.  One time the problem arises is when we are all in the van and Sylvia asks, "Did you lock the door?"  I know full well that the door has been locked.  Rare is the day when I leave without checking.  But if she asks, I have to go check.  That's not too bad, right?  Even if I have to drive around the block to do it?  I don't think I need therapy just yet.  (but I almost cried when I heard they were canceling Monk) 

In my classroom it helps me to think ahead for planning.  When I am thinking, 'what will the kids who finish early do?' I don't consider it worry.  When I think, 'I wonder if someone left their milk carton open in their cubby?'  Worry.  But there is also another recently unfounded worry that rears its ugly head nearly every day.  Are you ready?  OK, true confession time...

I worry that one of my kindergarteners is hiding behind the bathroom door waiting to surprise me when I go to the restroom.

The first step is admitting it to yourself.  I feel better now.

This has never really been an issue before I started teaching the little five year olds.  I could have gone my entire life without worrying about kids hiding in the bathroom if I was still a truck driver.  If I had gotten the job dressing up as Chuck E. Cheese there would have been loads of youngsters, but the attraction of all of their games and pizza would have kept the kids from hiding out in a stall.  It only became an issue when I decided, as a professional, that it was taking too long to go all the way over to the bathroom across the school yard.  Add to that, the other teachers said that I should just use the bathroom in the room like they did.  OK, I will try.

So with my colleagues watching the youngins' at recess, I decided to try it.  And then 'wham'  it occurred to me..."there is more than enough room for a kid to hide behind this door!"  And so it began...I became a 'behind the door checker.'  Every day when nature called at recess (I have a teacher bladder) I would check behind the door.  I would think, "There's really no reason to check.  No one wants to be in here instead of outside."  But then a thought would follow..."I really don't want to be any part of a phone call that includes the sentence, 'I didn't know your child was in the bathroom with me.'"  So I check.  Every day.  Never found anyone (much like I never found the Boogey man under my bed when I was a kid) but I checked.

Every once in a while, it would seem a little silly to me (like my unproductive Boogey searches) but the risk, in my mind, outweighs the feeling of being silly.  And daily I have nothing to worry about...until last year.

Late last year, little Jane Curtain (the name has been changed to protect the adorable) would rather sit alone than play with the other children.  Mr. Garrett, being a butt-in-ski (I guess we know the answer now) would try to get her to engage in play with other kids.  She continued to find new places to get away from me, to no avail.  And then one day, when I really hadn't noticed if she was playing or hiding, nature called.  I went in thinking, it's silly but I am going to check...pull back the door..."Jane!  What are you doing here?  You need to go back to the playground and stop standing behind the door in the dark!  Do you realize that you have just reinforced a very serious mental disorder in Mr. Garrett and he will have to go to years of counseling with large amounts of medications after this!?"

OK, so maybe that isn't what I said, but I felt vindicated and worried all at the same time!  Perhaps I will need to wait until I get home to answer the call...after all I used to have a truck driver's bladder!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Just Giving Back

Given my usual lack of luck concerning borrowing vehicles I announced that I would not be borrowing my dad's truck ever again.  So he agreed to rent it to me...for a dollar.  With that bit of luck-boosting I agreed to take the truck.  At the beginning of our summer we borrowed rented my Dad's truck, packed up the trailer, and took off with our church to go to the mission in Arizona.  We had gone about two hundred of the nine hundred miles to the church when we turned onto the worst road in America.  Or so we thought.

We were traveling in a caravan of six vehicles and our camper, nicknamed 'Travels With Tee-pee', was bringing up the rear.  We weren't able to keep up with the speeds of the group for the most part but it wasn't a problem.  We all knew where we were going, we all had the map, and slow and steady wins the race...right?  From our San Francisco Bay Area start, we traveled south until we started to head east toward Arizona.  It was a bit of a tricky turn off but we made it, and we assumed that the others had made it as well.  When we turned off the main highway and started to take a state road the road was awful!  Sylvia and I looked at each other and said in unison, "This road is really bad.  Jinx!  You owe me a brownish colored cola flavored carbonated beverage (I'm waiting to see who wants to sponsor this blog and then I will insert an actual name here)"  We continued on the road for about thirty miles.  I looked at the big rigs traveling alongside.  They seemed to be bouncing as much as we were.  The kids were having fun talking with vibrating voices.  Our bottoms were being massaged.  And I was wondering if the milk in the refrigerator of the trailer had turned into a block of butter yet.

We traveled on this road/goat trail for a number of miles and then we connected with the highway that would take us all the way to Arizona.  The trouble was, this new larger highway was just as bad as the state road.  Hmmm, curious.  I would like to have said, "Hey. If all of these bumps are happening on every road we it possible it isn't the road at all?"  I would like to have said that, but I didn't.

This is where I am reminded of a time in high school when I smelled something bad.  Not to be indelicate, it smelled like poop.  I checked my shoes, (cautiously) I looked around, (secretively) and I could not find the source of the stink.  Man someone in here is stinky!  Then I went to my next class, and the next class...same smell.  I looked to the side and as nonchalantly as I could (because everyone in the room was watching me at all times waiting for me to mess up and then announce it to the class so I would be embarrassed...or maybe I was just being an adolescent) I bowed my head, raised my shoulder, and sniffed my shirt.  BINGO!  I was wearing a shit-shirt! (apologies)  Unbeknownst to me, my mom switched laundry detergents and this new detergent had a chemical reaction with the fibers in this shirt to make it the opposite of spring fresh.  Add to that my overabundance of teenage awkwardness and I had a horrible rest of the day.  But I digress...

The point is, if it smells in every new place you go you should smell your shirt.  And if every road you are traveling on feels as bumpy as the should check your vehicle.  We were out of walkie talkie range.  We were traveling slower than even we should have due to the shaking.  Sylvia got on the phone and called Mark, the leader of our group, to tell him that we were going to have to stop and get the truck checked out since we were having a problem.  The conversation went something like:

"Mark, we have a problem and we need to stop."
"What's up?"
"Our truck is really shaking and we aren't sure why.  You guys just go on ahead and we'll catch up later."
"Well we made a wrong turn and lost everyone else...where are you?"
"We are at mile marker 264."
"We are at mile marker 262.  We'll catch up to you in about a minute."

At this time I would like to express my sincere gratitude to God for watching over us and showing that even wrong turns can turn out to be blessings.

When they caught up to us they came alongside the truck and said that the back tires were bouncing up and down on the road...even with an eleven thousand pound trailer pushing down on the bed of the truck.  This was bad.  We pulled over and I tried to find a truck repair/tire store/miracle worker on my smart phone.  The closest was about fifteen miles away down a two lane road, complete with construction.  When we got close, we called and got to hear a grumpy (possibly intoxicated) gentleman announce that he would put two used tires on our truck for a hundred dollars apiece.  As appealing as that was, ahem, we decided to look further and found a Walmart tire center like a gleaming city on a hill.  We limped, and prayed, and coaxed, and prayed, and babied, and prayed the truck into the back of the tire center and went inside.

At the counter, it looked like the ticket counter at the airport in Casablanca after they announced that evacuations were necessary.  It was crowded, it was hot and sweaty, and people looked depressed and hopeless.  The only things missing were camels and stale cigarette smoke.  With all of these people in front of us, and only one of the two people working able to use the computer at a time, I felt my own hope slipping away...and along for the trip, riding piggy-back, was my ability for rational thought.

It all seemed to come to me at once, in the crowded line at the tire center in the Barstow Walmart.  This could have been bad!  We could have blown a tire...or two!  There could have been an accident!  I am driving Dad's truck and there is another problem!  We could have been alone!  The problem might not just be the tires!  This is day one of a week long trip!  My new credit card hasn't come and this one has a crack in it.  What if it won't go through the machine?  What if the last payment didn't make it yet and "declined" is the only thing that comes to the screen?  I have to call my dad and tell him that once again, while my hands were on the steering wheel, there was another problem with the truck!  The people in charge of our mission trip group are now held back with us instead of leading everyone to the first stop!  All of these thoughts were bouncing around in my head when I heard the clerk tell someone about five people ahead of me that she would write up the work order but she couldn't guarantee that it would be done today.  ***snap***

After that everyone started sounding like Charlie Brown's teacher from the Peanuts cartoon.  "Waaaa waa waaa wa.  Waaa wa wa waaaa wa."  Mark and Rich propped me up emotionally as Aly and Beth were outside with Sylvia, the kids, and Fudge the wonder dog.  We slowly, and I do mean slowly, got to the front of the line and I ordered two new tires for the back of the truck that I had already unhitched from the trailer.  And she said to about five o'clock..."I'll write it up but I can't guarantee that it will get done today."  Always trying to make people laugh I teased, "But we are doing God's work!"  She laughed and told me that she would see what she could do.  I, crossing my fingers, paid for the tires, signed the paperwork, and went out to join the rest of the people who just happened to be waiting in 110 degree heat.

I tried to tell them that the worst was over and they should just go on ahead and we would be fine.  I tried to reason that if they didn't get the tires done, we could at least stay in the trailer and start out tomorrow morning after they were done.  They wouldn't hear of it.  And we all sat, for three hours, in the hot summer Barstow sun, while car after car got worked on.  I was happy to be on the other side of most of the stress and I didn't want to deal with any more when Rich said, "Let's go check and see how much longer."  When we went in, the tire guys had pulled two giant truck tires that looked like something you would put on a tractor if you were planning to get stuck up to your tailpipe in mud!  He said, "Ummm, those aren't the tires for the red truck are they?"  He looked at the invoice and said, "These are the ones you paid for."

Back to Casablanca...where we found out that the saleslady, direct from housewares, pharmacy, or perhaps the young miss section, had written up the right size but a completely different tire.  Back to the drawing board...and the possibility that they do not have my size tires.  What's that teacher?  Waaa wa wa waaa wa.  Waaaaaa waa waaa waaaaaa.

In checking on their progress, Rich went and talked to the (we'll call them methodical) workers and they showed him the old tires.  Apparently the tread had completely separated from the tire itself and was only being held on by a couple of miracles.  It could have been much, much worse than it was.

At a little after the time that they closed the tire center, they allowed me to drive it out of the shop.  Two new tires on the truck and about six hours behind everyone else in the group we set out again.

I have a new appreciation for friends who stay and help when rational arguments can be made for leaving.  I seriously think our trip would not have gone as smoothly as it did after that, if we had been on our own.  With everything seeming to go wrong and all of the frustration I felt at the tire center in Casablanca, I am not sure I would have made it without someone else coming alongside and lending a hand.  And that, Ms. DeGuzman, is why I stopped getting ready for my own students arrival and helped get your twenty two cartons of curriculum out of chaos and into your classroom.  For me, it was ten minutes.  For you, it may have pulled you back from the edge.

It's gonna be a great year...but I still owe my dad a dollar.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The First Domino

I have known for years that I do not do things the same way much of the population does.  I see things wildly differently than most everyone else.  I even hear things strangely.  With my predisposition to not fit in to the normal way of doing things, it is always a shock when I am blindsided by something that happens to almost everyone else on the planet.  Today I have been tackled by what most men fear the most---The First Domino.

It started simply enough when my son, Jake, announced the other day that he had outgrown the sports themed decorations in his room and wanted to paint it a different color.  OK, I thought, take down the border, wash the walls, new can of paint...40 bucks.  "Sure Jake!" I said magnanimously, "Let's do it."  And then I started hearing a faint ***click click click click**** off in the distance.  I had no idea what it was and it didn't concern me in the least.  I was young and foolish.

Jake started putting things in boxes and moving them out of his room.  He added to our perennial 'give away' boxes the things that he didn't want anymore and stored the rest in the screened room.  I came to his room to see the progress when he announced that he wanted to soak tennis balls in paint and 'splatter' his room.
"Well that's not gonna happen Bud.  Plan B?"
"I could throw paint from brushes."
"Plan C?"

We were still working out the details of the paint job when I heard it again.  Kristiana came in to measure his bed.  Apparently ***click click click*** she now wants to re-do her room but doesn't like the loft bed that she has.  Jake wants to put her loft bed into his room and she will take his bed into hers.
"When did furniture moving come into this?" I asked helplessly.  ***click***

Then ***click click click*** Jake announced that he wanted the loft to be not quite so lofty and it should be moved down about 8 inches.
"Jake..." ***click*** "There aren't holes to make the bed eight inches lower Pal."
"I know.  But you can do it Dad." ***click click***

As we were moving things out and around I went into the front room and asked Sylvia, "Were you considering the whole splatter paint idea?  Were you thinking that we would paint the ceiling too?"
"It is what he wants to do."  And then she looked up, ***click*** you know we haven't painted in here since we moved in, ***click click*** we should freshen up.
"Hey!  Stop looking up!  This room isn't even connected!  Forget I asked.  How bout those Bears?  They gonna go all the way this year?  And what is with all the clicking!?  Does no one else hear that?!"

I decided to retreat to Jake's room to check on the progress.  By this time I felt like the little Dutch boy with his finger on the leaky dam, except in my story there are about eight holes.  One of them is spraying my face and another is making me have to tell every snickering villager who walks by, "No really, I didn't wet myself.  It's the leaky dam.  Really."

So now we have two rooms being completely emptied and re-done, Sylvia is eyeballing the front room's color scheme, and I am thinking, "One coat of paint would have been a half day job.  Where did I go wrong? And will someone please stop that clicking!"

Amid all the hubbub of people moving things around, patching holes, and envisioning layouts, Sylvia came in and said, "You know," ***click click*** "that border came down a lot more easily than I expected." ***click*** "The border in the bathroom is starting to peel up at the edges.  I think we should find something new for in there."  ***CLICK***

By now, of course, I have finally figured out that the clicking is an endless line of dominoes, gradually increasing in size, all set in motion by one simple comment about wanting to paint one room.  I should have expected it.  I have been tricked by this before.  I remember the new bath mats that turned into re-carpeting the house.  I also remember, all too well, the time that Sylvia got ten free rolls of leftover sod from someone who was putting in a lawn down the street.  That one cost me a month and a half of work, a new fence, a bobcat and dump truck rental, two pallets of construction blocks, and about twenty five hundred dollars!  Good times!  ***click***  (but the yard does look good)

I think I will be OK.  I have been dealing with falling dominoes for decades.  I am just hoping that the last domino isn't set to fall on me!  Did I mention that Kristiana wants me to paint pink and black zebra stripes on her walls?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Wanted! Dead or Alive!!

I am sensing a theme lately.  The past few blogs have been about my past vehicles and I have another "car story" set to tee off this morning.  It may be that we have been clearing things out of the garage and back yard so I keep bumping into these vehicles.  It may be that I am on a vision quest to obtain a new truck.  It may just be a coincidence.  So after writing about my motorcycle and my Datsun (Which still has a disappointing zero bids in the auction to sell it...perhaps I should lower the starting bid to $24, 999) in the past few days, I thought I would write about a car that wasn't technically mine.

It seems like yesterday.  Which isn't all that odd since it actually was yesterday...but I digress.  It all started when my friend Mark called me, out of the blue, to see if I wanted to go see Captain America.  Sylvia had taken the kids to the water park/roller coaster haven a few towns away, and I was working in my classroom.  I was just at the point where I had more things to do but no more desire to do them.  It was the perfect storm of, "Sure! I'd love to go!"  

Mark told me that he wanted to drive so he could put some miles on the newly installed engine in his classic car.  Mark is a 'car guy' and I suspect that he was born somewhere in the Ford Galaxie but that is a blog (and movie line...anyone?) for another day.  Mark is also who I drove with, for roughly 36 hours, to go to the Arizona mission last year.  He brought about 300 hours of music on cd's.  I never ran out of stories.  Someone who endured my stories, for that long, and still wants to sit next to me in a car...deserves a medal.  

Well, as we were coming home from the theater, and getting on the freeway, Mark hit the gas, the speedometer rose, I was pressed back in my seat, and I said, "This reminds me of a story."  

Mark threw his hands in the air, skidded to the side of the freeway, and told me to get out, screaming, "Everything reminds you of a story!  I can't take it!"

OK, so he didn't do that...but I'm pretty sure he was thinking it as I told the story of our old family car.  Growing up, my mom always wanted a car that would, "Get out of it's own way!"  To her, a slow car meant death and dismemberment so we always had a car with a little get up and go.  She also associated size with power so we had a series of boat-like vehicles with large engines to propel them down the street, freeway, or drag-strip...(just kidding Mom).  One of my favorites was the car we had when I first learned to drive.  It was and Oldsmobile 98 and it had an impressive 454 motor in it.  Since the car was huge it wasn't all that fast taking off from a stoplight, but if you weren't careful to obey all the proper speed limits and safety precautions mandated by the state to ensure peace and tranquility among the people...(kids are you listening?)...then it would go from 55 to 85+ in the blink of an eye!  I think I may have done that once, on accident, on a closed not attempt this at home. (kids, seriously you need to pay attention here)

I loved that car and its over sized power-plant and was sad when it came time to park it at the curb and buy a new more reliable, but equally huge, car.  I had a VW bug by then, and was paying for my own gas, so I didn't ever drive it anymore.  It was showing its age with rust and holes in the vinyl top but it was still a great car.

Then one day there was a knock at the door and Dad went outside for a while.  When he came back in he said, "I just sold the Olds."  
"What!?  When did you decide to do that?  Did you put it in the paper?  Was there a sign on it?"
"Nope, this guy just came up to the door and asked if we wanted to sell the car."
"That is weird.  How much did you get?"
"Three hundred dollars."
"What!!  I would have given you that!!" (to be fair, childhood loves are priceless, but even at that, three hundred sounded low)
"You didn't want that car, Jeff."

And that was the last we spoke about the car.

Until a few years later...and this is where the story gets good.  (thank you for not shouting out, 'FINALLY!')

There was another knock at the door and again Dad answered it and went outside.  When he came back in he told us that we had just been visited by the police.

"Yeah.  He asked if we owned a tan Oldsmobile 98.  When I told him that we sold it a couple years ago he thanked me and turned around to walk away.  I stopped him and asked why he wanted to know about that car.  He said that it was the getaway car in an armed bank robbery in San Jose!  The guy didn't register it after he bought it."

After all the 'oohs' and 'ahhs' appropriate for exciting news like that in a boring suburban middle class household, we all thought, 'Hey he just walked away after you told him the car wasn't ours anymore.  That is not like the movies at all!'  But it gave us an idea... and we have been a bank robbing family ever since.  And when the police come to see if we own the getaway car we just say, "Nope not ours." and they walk away.  Simple as that.  After all...have you seen what they pay teachers these days!?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Working at Ganado

At the early part of the summer my family and I worked on a Navajo reservation at the Ganado Presbyterian Mission.  There was talk of internet connections and free time.  I brought our laptop and thought that I would be able to write every day, work on my book, and get done what I needed to get done for the mission.  One thing that I have learned is that the plans I make are laughable.  The internet connection was too far away from where we stayed but that was OK since my laptop refused to stay on for more than 5 minutes.  And the things that I 'needed' to get done turned into things that I 'desperately wanted' to get done.  It was a very rewarding experience for us as a church group and as a family.

I wrote a little bit about our experiences to share with the members of our church.  I thought I would include what I had written here:

The Hidden Oasis
Long ago, but not so long ago that people in our church don’t remember, there was an oasis in the Arizona desert.  It was a green, growing, landscape that was a stopping point for travelers to refresh as they made their way across the arid landscape.  Travelers knew that the Presbyterian Mission at the Navajo reservation in Ganado, Arizona was a place to recharge and go on with a new energized spirit.  The grounds were watered with an underground spring that kept the mission green and growing.  In addition to the trees and grass that were fed by the spring, there was a school, run by the mission, that ‘fed’ the surrounding area in terms of investing in the future of the Navajo people or the dine (di-nay) as they call themselves.

For reasons too long forgotten or too muddled to remember accurately the life giving spring was covered up.  Some say it was to save the sinking foundation of the church.  Some say it was the Sage Memorial Hospital, which is now intertwined among the grounds and decision making at this site, who decided to cap off the spring.  My favorite is that the “hippies” came and took away the water and, with that, took away much of the outward, superficial beauty of the grounds. (By the way, the church’s foundation continues to sink and repairs are needed to shore things up.)  The once thriving school closed.  The church was without a pastor for many years.  And the buildings fell into disrepair.  Were it not for the efforts of the elders of the church, and one of the most humble church secretaries that I have ever seen, the church would have dried up and blown away along with the once lush grounds.

Centerville’s team of thirty five traveled to the mission to help rejuvenate portions of the mission that we felt we could accomplish in our short stay there.  We were not fully aware of what to expect, the challenges that we would face, or the way we would be changed by the Navajo people.  Around every corner we met people who were appreciative of all the work we were doing and saw the spirit of God shining through acts of selflessness and generosity.  Walking through the various worksites at the mission I saw people working together to accomplish things that, in truth, had no earthly expectation of being completed in the small amount of time that we had.  There was a library that was in as much disarray as I have seen.  There was a tunnel with broken wiring that held an entire building hostage with sub-standard power.  There was an empty room with no wiring, lighting, or internet connection.  There were dorm rooms with mattresses and no beds.  There was a sanctuary with two different colors of paint.  There was an entire house that needed to be painted!  And amid all of this activity there was a strong desire to lead the children of the mission in a vacation Bible school full of fun, singing, and learning about the love of Jesus.

We were told to not feel badly if we didn’t complete the tasks that we assigned ourselves and even to expect that we would not complete everything that we had wanted to.  Each team (except for the VBS team) pondered fall back positions where we could leave work uncompleted to be worked on by the next group to come.  Each team worked past their mid-point goals and worked on to the completion of each task.

If this were a story in a novel or the plot of a movie of the week this would be where the hero would ride in, take off his hat, and push aside the boulder that allowed the spring to flow again energizing this wonderful place.  Unfortunately, this is not a movie and the spring is long since gone.  The energizing needs to come from groups like ours who are full of the love of Jesus and a desire to help people who are in need.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Oh Yeah! I have a motorcycle!

Yesterday was a big day!  If you are a Facebook friend of mine then you know all about it.  I should probably tell you about it just in case you aren't.  Like my mom.  How sad is that.  My own mother refuses to Facebook friend me.  That's OK...I'm not hurt.  sniff

Yesterday started about fourteen years ago.  Unfortunately I don't have the time to go into all of that.  I will tell you that when people tell you, as you move into a new house, that 'stuff comes in by the box load and leaves by the truckload' they speak the truth.  In the interest of having the "Hoarders, Buried Alive" producers stop calling the house to see when they could start filming, we have been straightening up around here.  It never feels like much as you bring it into the house but when it takes you a solid day to stack all the stuff at the curb that should have been gotten rid of little by little, you feel it.  Literally!

You may remember that I have named my garage "away" because the kids (one in particular, without naming any names...The Boy!) consider that the place to put everything.

"Jake, did you put it away?"
"Yeah Dad."
"Well I just tripped over it in the garage.  Is the garage away?"
"Did you say something Spongebob?"
"Turn off the TV sport."

One problem that we have/had is that we created a section of the yard that was nearly perfect for setting things that would need to be dealt with "someday."  When we got new mattresses for the kids.  The old mattresses would need to go away, someday.  The lawnmower that became dormant long ago, someday.  The wood to bring camping for s'mores, someday.  The extra large ladder that would reach the roof of a two story house but has no 'place' to put it, someday.  Much to Sylvia's pleasure, someday came yesterday.

Our city offers a bulky pick up to the residents twice a year.  You just need to sign up, someday.  The mattresses that had been used to bounce back baseballs and catch arrows, gone.  The lawnmower that had become a modern art piece, gone.  The crazy lamp that housed fourteen forty watt bulbs and took three square feet of living space out of the house, gone.  It's a beautiful thing.  And in the middle of all of the shuffling and piling and cleaning and shoveling and clipping and who knows...I realized, "Oh Yeah!  I have a motorcycle!"  To be fair, I knew it was there and the Morning Glory hadn't completely covered it up, but it was in the back yard in the land known as 'someday'.

I would love to say that I put in the key, started it up, and drove it to its new home next to the garage.  I think you and I both know that didn't happen.  After we pulled the vines from between its spokes we pushed it out of the yard and limped it into the new "home" that will make it easier to revive.  If that is the direction I am going.  I haven't decided yet.  But now, I could if I wanted to.  I used to drive motorcycles all the time.  It was my favorite mode of transportation.  Since I was about five I had a couple wheels strapped to a motor under me.  I rebuilt my Dad's old Honda when I was old enough to drive on the street legally, as sort of a challenge.  I got it to run like a top.  And it only took me three tries to get the carburetor to actually let gas go through in the right spots.  I bought my own when I got a bonus from a crazy boss who paid a lot of money but made you work for it with mental abuse (but that is a blog for a different day).  I enjoyed them...and then I had kids.  After that, I noticed that some people seemed to not like the concept of "motorcycle" and would edge over to get in my way.  Others would speed to cut me off as I tried to make it around corners.  And my least favorite...I actually had someone, on a two lane road, come into my lane so they could run over a roadkill animal to splatter me with stuff that I would rather not be splattered with.  I never had a question about my ability to ride.  I began to question the sanity of other drivers and then the answer eventually turned to.  I think I'll stick to my truck.

But today nothing will bother me because we have a cleared out area in our newly named section of the backyard.  I have dubbed it, "Don't even think about it!"  We'll see how long that name lasts.

And when I say that nothing will bother me I mean nothing!...except for every single muscle that I used yesterday for the first time in months!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

An Auction

I have been giving free advertising to the people at Google ads long enough!  I am only up to $17.40 and they won't send a check until I get to $100.  I have come up with a new strategy for making money.  For those of you who have been readers since the beginning this is technically a new, new, new, new strategy for making money.  But so be it!  Something has to change!

As you all know, I started writing this blog to become 'rich and famous'.  I suppose I could become 'famous and rich' but 'rich' definitely needs to be somewhere in the top two.  

Everyone has heard of King Midas and his unique ability to turn whatever he touched into gold.  I actually know people like him (minus the annoying part about turning his daughter into an expensive shiny statue).  These people have a knack for things related to money and will regularly say things like, "Yeah, I bought the car on a whim.  Who knew I would sell it for ten times what I paid three years later!"  or "I picked this painting up at a garage sale to cover the stain on the wall.  The original frame was blocking Picasso's signature."  You've seen these Midases on the news.  It is OK to dislike them.

Lately, I have been more like King Nimrod, Midas' illegitimate step-brother.  Everything I touch turns into a bill.  There used to be a children's story about Nimrod but it was too scary for the kids (and the adults reading it) and they would beg for the 'nice' story about the lady in the cookie house who killed kids by shoving them into a wood-burning oven!  Ahhh, good times.  

Yes, I have been very Nimrod-like for a while.  I won't bore you with all the details but let's just say that broken bones at night are expensive, the dog can almost jump over the picket fence, brakes shouldn't sound like that, it shouldn't feel like every road you are driving on is a dirt road, and a little leak never turns out to be just a little leak.  Oh yeah, and a personal favorite, the little squeak you hear in when you turn left could be a fifty nine cent worn bushing...or a new front end.  Actually that last one was technically my dad's truck...but I bet you can guess who's hands were on the wheel when the sound came up!  (Sorry Dad, from your son, King Nimrod)  Luckily my dad knows better than to take my advice to just turn the radio up to hide the noise and it is being fixed as I write.

So you can see why I needed to develop a new strategy for becoming rich.  I have been going over and over plots (I mean sound financial strategies) in my mind and the one I have landed on today is an auction via blog.   My first blog contest was a smashing success!  I think I came up with the idea for the auction when someone stopped by the house to ask how much I wanted for the car sitting dormant in the driveway I had also just watched a TV auction with Jake.  Actually, people regularly stop by and ask about the car in the driveway.  Let me just say, it stands out.

It is a 1973 Datsun 240Z.  It is a fairly rare sports car to begin with, but this one has the extra added attraction of being painted white in the front, red in the back and a diagonal stripe separating the two halves.  My friend, who designed the paint job, called it The Z'bra.  The way it looks is what gets people interested enough to stop and ask.  Then I get to tell them about my friend, Joe, who used to have a shop here in town.  He put racing suspension on the car.  It has been rumored, by someone other than me (because my kids may eventually read this), that it can go through the very curvy Niles Canyon at a "significantly higher than legal" speed.  It is a fun little sports car to drive but since it is exceedingly unpractical for a family of four (especially since it is a two-seater) I have decided to auction off The Z'bra.

This will make Sylvia very upset.  For years I have been telling her about sitting with my dad and my uncles  listening to them talk about their old cars.  There were wild exploits, crazy modifications, high speeds, and good times.  All of the stories, without exception, would end with, "If I only had that car today."  Well this is the car for my stories and...I still have that car today!  She has forbidden me, on numerous, occasions to sell the car.  She doesn't want me to have any regrets.

But alas, times are tough and we could really use a little extra cash so I have, with a lump in my throat, decided to hold an auction here on the blog.  I suppose I will need to limit the amount of time so let's say that all bids should be in by this Sunday, August 21st.   To be fair I will take the highest bid and it will be your responsibility to come and get the car.  I have no idea what the transfer fees will be, should it be won by a Slovenian farmer, so you will need to check on that before you bid.  All bids should be made as comments to the blog.  I can't think if I have forgotten anything so I reserve the right to add legal stuff later.

Good Luck!

OK, let's start the bidding at $25,000.  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Bueller?

Now if you'll excuse me I need to start thinking about my next get rich scheme.  I plan to sit outside and check all the lottery tickets that happen to blow by to see if they are winners!  Ca-CHING!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Eh? Ehh? EHHH?!

As I sit here watching my beard turn gray before my very eyes I have come to the realization that I was never all that funny.  I just have really lousy hearing.  If you'll bear with me for a blog-style therapy session I would like to get a few things off my chest (it's graying too but I'm not sure that is an appropriate image for a family blog so I will leave out that fact).

I suppose it all started in junior high school when someone would say something, I would mis-hear it (I'm sure it's a hyphenated word!), I would ask for clarification on what I thought I heard, and then all of my friends would roll around on the floor laughing hysterically.  Those of you who have survived junior high will know that most things you do are to: a) not be noticed, and b) not be embarrassed.  You can imagine how people noticed me when I was the only one standing in the middle of a bunch of people gasping for air.  The junior high mind is an efficient and terrible thing.  In the split second that I saw people looking my direction my mind told me: a) people are looking at you, b) you are the only one not laughing, c) everyone will think you farted, and d) perhaps I should send 90% of your blood to your face so you can look as embarrassed as you feel.

Failing at both of my junior high goals at once made me develop a new strategy.  Start laughing with these people!  Become one of the herd!  Blend in!  Then the lionesses walking by won't pick me out as the weakest zebra and devour me.  (sorry, the TV's been stuck on Animal Planet all week)  So that is how it began, a defense mechanism. 

I used to think that I was just getting by, but now it seems that I started to enjoy it at some point.  Having people laugh at the things that I said was not so bad.  If I meant to have them laugh, even better.  Not necessary but acceptable.  I managed to get by junior high school and into the beginning years of high school being embarrassed approximately only 75 times a day.  I had two friends who relished in the fact that they could make my face turn bright red by merely saying, "Why is your face turning red?"  Good times...but that is a therapy session (I mean blog) for another day.  Then in my junior year, my English class (note to Miss Berg...I capitalized English!) went to go see a play.  This play had someone who mis-spoke as part of the comedy.  They would say something like "He is the very pine-apple of politeness!" [pinnacle]  It is called Malapropism, named after the character of Mrs. Malaprop in the play "The Rivals" and it has been used ever since as a comedic device.  If you have ever watched Archie Bunker in All in the Family you have heard it used.  (I'm sorry to be so educational.  I will try not to let it happen again.) 

When I heard this, and that it was a respected part of comedy, I beamed.  The problem was that I had been hearing malapropisms all the time...mostly when the person talking wasn't saying them!  I would then insert what I had heard, suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and then pretend I meant to do it all the time.  Oh well, anything for a laugh. 

When I jump ahead to the years following high school after I drugged Sylvia and tricked her into marrying and having kids with such a weird guy.  (that's her story anyway..or maybe I just didn't hear it right)  When the kids were still wee ones, and starting to babble, I was now in my element.  I had spent years perfecting the skill of trying to be funny by repeating what was said while changing a word or two to make it funny.  Now I had whole "sentences" to play with.  "Ga monna fee monna," became "You wanna be Madonna!?  No Way!"  People laughed, I laughed with them, and the best part was that my kids laughed too.  Those memories will be the ones I cherish always.  Of course when I am in a nursing home and trying to recount these tales, people will just think that I am reverting back to my childhood when I start to babble.  (Here's a hint...I never left!)

Well all of that was to explain why I thought something my son said the other day was so incredibly funny!  We were talking about going to a lake/overambitious pond and to make sure to bring our swimsuits because we could possibly swim.  He protested and said, "We should go to the pool instead because I don't like swimming with refugees."  I was taken aback.  I have to admit I wasn't aware of Jake's feelings about political exiles. So I asked, "Why, son, don't you like to swim with refugees?"  The van erupted in laughter.  It was junior high all over again.  It was then explained to me that Jake, a very tolerant fellow, would prefer not swimming with "real fishies."  Perhaps I should get my ears checked.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Teacher Dream

There is one, unmistakable, incontrovertible, sign that shows you meet all of the requirements needed to be a successful teacher..."The Teacher Dream!"

The uninitiated might think that the teacher dream would include all of your former students coming back to thank you for your hard work and dedication while they were in your a school assembly for that sole purpose.  Another dream that non-teachers might assume educators have would be a classroom full of eager readers who are instantly respectful.  Students who hang on every word and want nothing more than to change the world for the better and bring apples every day.  Trust me, that only happens in the movies and certain Twilight Zone episodes.

No, the dream I am talking about is common to every educator I have ever met and it happens at varying times during the summer.  It is as frightening as any Hollywood created monster has ever been.  I, personally, have awakened, sitting up straight, sweating profusely, and wondering if I could sneak my way back into the classroom for just a little while.  There are many variations I have heard and the mere mention of "the dream" will cause teachers to discuss their own twists but there is still a common theme.  Nothing is ready.

My own variation is that I walk into the classroom in cutoff jeans and a t-shirt that has a saying not meant for students written on it.  I haven't showered or shaved since I am just going to get dirty.  And I am wearing sandals.  I am ready to get in there and start moving things into place.  Everything has been collecting dust all summer and then I need to move furniture around since the custodians have shuffled everything aside to mop and wax the floors.  It is about two weeks before school starts (a week and a half before I start getting paid) and it is a fairly typical start to a new year.  The problem is that I have somehow mistaken the start date of school (this part is entirely plausible given my track record with birthdays).

When I open the classroom door I suddenly see a room full of students and parents ready for me to teach them.  All of the parents want to have their child's picture taken with their new teacher and I am mortified at what my t-shirt says.  I rub my chin and feel the stubble and don't want anyone to take my picture at all.  My principal, opens the door to say hi to all the new kindergarteners and welcome them to the new year.  Strangely she doesn't notice that I, obviously, wasn't planning on having students in the classroom today and leaves me there to deal with the parents.  I start to think, "can I just explain that I got the date wrong and ask everyone to come back tomorrow?"  I can stay up late and get the classroom ready in a night...even though it usually takes me two weeks with a lot of help from my family.

By this time, in bed, I have usually clenched my pillow so tightly that if it was a lump of coal I would be set for Sylvia's next birthday.  I toss and turn and moan and grumble and generally make it difficult for anyone in a three block (or three camper) radius to get any sleep.

In the dream, I resign myself to my fate and start to try to control the unruly mob of four and five-year-olds that has assembled in room 1 and start to usher parents from the room.  I frantically think that I should be doing something but am frozen with fear and frustration.  I wonder if I should send them outside for recess but think that it would be worse since I haven't taught them any rules for the playground.  I unsuccessfully try to call their attention and get them to the carpet, as I unroll it, and the ones that do hear me just laugh at my futile attempt to gain order.

Other teachers have told me their variations of "the dream" and it is usually the same.  Arlene, who typifies preparedness, mentioned that she is in her PJ's when she gets to her classroom in the dream.  Lulu, who is also a model of readiness, stated, "PJ's?  I wish!"  It is one universal truth among teachers.  We all worry about being unprepared.

By this time in the dream I mercifully wake up and wonder what day it is.  I assure Sylvia that I am ok but, in the years where we have taken the kids across the country to see the worlds largest ball of mud, I announce that we need to start heading toward home.  There is no escape, there is no therapy, once I have the dream I have a need to get back into the classroom to start getting ready for the next group of students.  This year, unfortunately, I have had the dream earlier than ever and there is nobody at the school to let me have my keys.  I guess I will just have to resign myself to waiting a week to get in there.  If I have the dates right.