Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wally's Kid

I just had a patron at the library check out, and when she handed me her card, I remarked, "Oh, you're Dillon's Mom!" She laughed at told me how growing up she had always been "Dwight's sister," and now she's pretty much known as "Dillon's Mom." She wondered if she would ever be known just as herself.

Well, that got me thinking.

Growing up, I felt that my identity was alwasy intrinsically tied to my parents'. Being the daughter of the local barber always meant that I had to do my sinning three counties over, because anything and everything naughty that happened in town was hashed and rehashed over stale coffee and conversation at Wally's Clip Joint. In fact, the only behavioral dictate my mom ever gave me was "Don't do anything you're going to regret later in life," and the only one my dad ever gave me was, "Don't EVER let me hear your name in this barber shop." I had to completely grow up and move away to stop being known as "Wally's kid" or "Jeannie Puck's (you know, she married the barber) girl."

But forging a completely new identity was hard. There's something very Midwestern-y, small town cool about being able to identify yourself as your parents' child and having people immediately know your family tree. Then again, I was lucky enough to have been born to an illustrious family tree known for its good folks and fine roots. I've never been ashamed to be "Wally's kid" (even though I did go through the requisite "my dad's a weirdo and I can't stand to be seen in public with him) phase that is pretty normal for teenagers.

In fact, I'm lucky that even though I have to earn my position in society today by my words and deeds, there is still a place out there that I get to visit every once in a while where I can walk in, say "Hi" to the locals, and go about my business. Then, when I get up to go, I'm gratified to hear as I walk out the door, "Oh, who's that? That's Wally's kid!"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On Growing Up...Sort Of

So today after school, I completely forgot that I had rescheduled yesterday's chiropractic appointment and was sitting at my desk, trying to be the uber-organized person on the 8th grade team who had tomorrow's field trip ALL UNDER CONTROL. I took out all the permission slips, faced the cash the kids had turned in, marked off the students who had paid, highlighted the names of those who hadn't, made bus lists of all the kids attending in alphabetical order (after having a small debate with myself over whether Minh Ma Tuyet's name should come before "Manns," since technically, her last name is Ma, or after "Miller," since in Vietnam her first name would be given last...these are the questions that nag at me incessantly), printed off 4 copies so each of us chaperoning would have our own copy (and wait for it...I put all of our names at the top of each page and THEN highlighted a different name on each page so we would each have our own, personalized copy). Yes, again, I wanted to have the field trip tomorrow ALL UNDER CONTROL.

Perhaps it's because the idea of taking a large group of children roller skating launches me back to the scary emotional minefield of my own junior high years and our monthly skating parties, wherein I lumbered about the insides of a converted warehouse on wheels, trying desperately not to spill my nachos while avoiding carpeted obstacles and waiting, desperately, for someone to ask me to skate with him on the "moonlight" skate. This, of course, never happened, even though hope sprang eternal in my not-quite developed breast, and I never gave up hope of having a partner to skate around the concrete bunker with while Bon Jovi wailed and the disco ball swirled.

Or, perhaps this is because every time we have one of these "Student Success Club" field trips, I feel as if my brain is melting and I'm going to do something horrifically non-professional teacher-y like leave a student behind, or not supervise the kids to the point that a baby will be conceived on my watch. This cannot happen, and so I try to compensate for the unknown scariness of trusting 8th graders with personal responsibility by being a little Type A with the advance paperwork on the trip. Eventually tomorrow, some time after we get on the bus to go to the roller skating rink and before we actually strap on the skates, I will LET IT GO and find my happy place. So what if one of the kids breaks an arm or sneaks off at the food court in the mall and wreaks havoc on the local retail industry? At least I had alphabetized AND personalized bus lists ready to go the day BEFORE the field trip!

So, as I was walking down to the printer to pick up my magnificent bus lists, I remembered that the middle school Quiz Bowl team was practicing in anticipation of their inaugural match tomorrow night. I decided to magnanimously pop in and offer my friend Sean my services as question reader so that he could actually work with the kids. He turned me down, but I stayed on and watched the kids practice. While sitting there, I noticed that the left lower part of my face was numb and tingly. I kept unobtrusively pushing at the numb area (at least I THOUGHT I was being unobtrusive -- everyone and their brothers may have actually seen me poking and pushing away at my face). The area felt a little swollen, so I went back to my room, opened the closet, and took a look to see if anything was noticeable. To my surprise, the area on the left of my chin was totally puffy and red. This struck me as odd, but it was time to go to the library, so I turned off the computer and headed out, leaving myself enough time to go to the gas station and grab a hot chocolate and bag of pretzels.

By the time I got to the library for work, I was starting to get myself in a bit of a tizzy. I thought to myself, "Self. Facial numbness is rarely a good thing. What's up with this?" I assured myself that all would be well, and that I would solicit the advice of my friend Alan, natural-life guru and librarian hippy extraordinaire. He agreed that this situation was hinky. Now, when faced with a hinky situation that involves facial numbness and tingling, I revert to the voice in my head that sounds a whole lot like my mom's and listen to it as it tells me what to do. In this case, I could clearly hear my mother's dulcet tones saying, "Get your butt to the doctor NOW before she closes." So I did.

Thankfully, the doctor was able to fit me in. Then again, when a patient presents herself at the front desk and says, "I'm a little freaked out -- my face is numb," it behooves a doctor to give it a look or two. I actually got a reflex test to see if I was having a stroke. Not so much. Of course, I go to a physician's assistant, and it's always a little disconcerting when she calls her sister the doctor, in for a consult. They used a lot of big words that I don't remember at this point, but I do remember having my mouth open and my tingly lip being pushed and pulled and prodded. They agreed that, yes, it was tingly, and yes, it was swollen (good to know my diagnostic skills are at the top of their game). They threw a lot of suggested treatments over my head, too, while pulling the ol' lip around. I caught the words "warm compresses" and "doxycycline," which made me think I might actually survive this situation.

So, here's the scoop. I have a pimple on the way. I didn't really struggle too much with acne as a teenager, but man, do I fight it as an adult. My hormones are constantly in a state of flux, and the main symptom is that my face consistently resembles a mountain range at sunset (I choose to believe that the general nastiness I often feel when dealing with my students is a result of working with adolescents, rather than the whole hormone thing. I will acknowledge that the hormone fluctuations probably don't help the situation, though.).

So I have a zit coming on. And this zit, which promises to be a monster, is developing right smack dab on the facial nerve, which is why the left side of my face has felt, for about six hours now, like I'm coming off a massive whack of novacaine at the dentist's office. This is not cool for me. However, I'm an adult, and sometimes being an adult means crazy stuff happens. Like pimples that pop up on facial nerves, and accepting responsibility for other people of the pre-teen variety when what I really want to do is bury my head in a pillow and not emerge for the week it's going to take the Clearasil to start working. Maybe tomorrow when I accompany the kids on the roller skating field trip, my zit and I will be able to convince the DJ to play some Bon Jovi for me. There won't be a "moonlight" skate for me to worry about, but at least the pimple and I will feel at home.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Keep on Dripping

The steady tap of water drops hitting the sink reminds me of a simple joy I admit to completely taking for granted -- running water.

I've decided that perhaps the number one thing one doesn't want to hear her husband say as she attempts to sleep in on a snow day is, "Dear, you'd better get up. We've got a problem." It turns out that we had no running water in the house...at all. Paul went out to check the heat tape and found it functioning, but no water was running. We called the water company to see if there had been a water main break anywhere, and they filled out a work order and promised to be at our place as quickly as possible (which turned out to be around 3 hours later). We discovered that the water to the outside spigot (the one which was frozen earlier this week, but now has a comfy styrofoam hat to where in cold weather) was working. So, obviously no problems with the water main; the issue had to be in the crawl space under the house.

After the nice men from the water company came and looked at Paul sympathetically while telling him that they weren't allowed to touch our pipes since the problem was on "our end" and not "their end," we decided to take our radiant heater and plug it in under the house. Paul was confounded by the labyrinth of pipes and not sure which pipe was actually frozen, so he just aimed the heater at all of them. He came back in the house, and we turned the faucets on and waited.

About 25 minutes later, water came gushing out -- hooray! But wait, our adventures weren't over for the day. We only had cold water -- nothing came out of the hot water tap at all. The hot water heater was full, as water sprayed out of the pressure valve when Paul checked it. I hopped on the internet to see if I could find any information on this, but the only thing I came up with was "air lock," which didn't seem to be our problem at all. So, I called a plumber (you can tell that I was very instrumental in helping with this situation -- I managed to read an entire book and watch a rerun of The West Wing while Paul crawled under the house multiple times and paced back and forth between the various water faucets throughout the house, muttering to himself repeatedly that he was getting damned tired of this weather), and found out that it was likely that our pipes were still frozen -- and, that hot water freezes faster and harder than cold water (who'd have thought?). So, back on went the heater, and we waited...and waited...and waited. After about 45 minutes, we discovered that weirdness was afoot -- we could turn on the hot water tap in one room, and if we turned on the cold water tap in another, water would come out of the hot water tap (but it wasn't hot water). This was truly a conundrum, but it made us suspect an air or water pressure issue. About 90 minutes later, Paul went down to check on the pipes under the hosue. As he was pounding up the stairs to get the snow off his boots before coming in the house, I heard a tremendous clang, and hot water started pouring out of the taps. Yeah! Paul came in to verify that, in fact, we had hot water (and to run his hands underneath it for a while -- it is below zero today). He then went back under the house and found a tremendously long icicle that had fallen out of the pressure release hose from the water heater that goes through the floor and just drips on the ground beneath the house. We are thinking that perhaps that hose froze, and that's why we had weird pressure issues. Of course, it could just have been that it was too damned cold and the pipes just froze.

So, we are leaving a faucet dripping and all the cupboard doors under faucets open. I won't let the temperature in the house tonight get down to the usual frigid temperature I allow it to (can't wait to see this month's electric and water bills), and hopefully, we'll make it through this cold snap with all our pipes and tempers intact.

As for me, now that I've spent the afternoon lazing about (with a period of being outside playing with the horses, filling their water tank from the outside spigot, and letting the dogs run in the snow), I think I'm going to go enjoy a nice, steamy shower.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snow Days

So, I really have to admit that I love snow days. There's just a hint of skipping school rebellion that underlies the knowledge that since the superintendent of schools doesn't feel people should be out on the road, it's perfectly fine for me, a school employee, to be completely lazy while staying within the confines of my house.

So far today (and it's only 2:30, mind you), I have watched 3 episodes of Chuck (Season 2), made a half batch of homemade broccoli cheese soup (and let me tell you, I'm glad it was only half a batch -- at least the dogs liked it), made the insides for peanut butter balls (which are currently chilling while they await their melted chocolate bath), and checked my Facebook a whopping 4 times. I was in bed, contemplating the insides of my eyelids and waiting for that twilighty, not-quite-asleep-yet feeling to fall away to oblivion, when the phone shrilled in my ear. I figured it was probably Paul checking in, but in fact, was delighted to hear the lovely recorded mail voice on the other end saying, "This is the School Reach System with a message from your child's school." Ah joy! Another snow day tomorrow!

I think I'll attempt to replicate Chi-Chi's seafood enchiladas tonight, although the recipe calls for lobster base, and I don't even have chicken base. I guess I'll be hitting the internet to see if there's some way to subsitation bullion granules -- those, I've got plenty of. There's no reason not to cook something a little more complicated than usual since I've been pretty much inert all day. This one calls for cooking sherry -- look out, gastrointestinal system -- good stuff ahead! I might also poke my nose into the sewing room and see if there are any projects I've been waiting for the perfect time to work on...this could be that perfect time.

But for right now, I think I'll continue to sip on that mug of hot chocolate and tune in for another episode of Chuck. Enjoy your snow days!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Back to Work

Although I struggle with calling work a simple joy -- mostly because it is rarely simple, and not often a joy -- it is a relief to be out of the house with a purpose. I managed to make several sojourns during my time off, but most of them involved me inventing a reason to leave rather than a necessary errand.

It is also nice to see my colleagues again -- thus far, all seem refreshed; while not eager for the students to return to us tomorrow, we are, at least, somewhat less grim-faced and teeth-clenched than when they left. I have to finish up grades this afternoon, as well as start planning for the 2nd semester and spending some quality time with the copier.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday Morning

The aroma of cinnamon is starting to permeate the air as I cuddle in the corner of the couch and type. I've got some frozen cinnamon rolls baking in the oven, and I'm looking forward to spreading the cream cheese icing on them and digging in. I woke this morning to the sounds of Lucy pacing the confines of the bedroom. Tucker and Sophie probably could have slept more, but when one's got to potty, the rest aren't too far behind. So, I threw on some sweats and my slippers, hooked Lucy up to the horse longe line serving as her tie-out, and let them outside. I'm a little ashamed to say I just stood at the door and watched them, but those of us who live in the Midwest know that when it's below zero, the smart ones stay inside and let the dogs go outside unaccompanied.

I graded 6 more portfolios this morning while it was quiet and before Paul started stirring. That leaves about 17 more to go. I should be able to knock those out during the course of the day today, and then be able to input the grades when I head back to school tomorrow. I seriously hope that we get time to work in our classrooms, considering that our guest speaker is only set to talk to us in the morning. I need some quality time with the copier machine, and some time to go through my desk and unearth assignments that may have been turned in at the last minute.

The horses are still inside this morning, so hooray for me! I went outside yesterday afternoon, after putting on long underwear and a spiderman-type face mask, and put insulator clips on all of the T-poles. Then, Paul came out and helped me to string a 3rd line of fencing between the two current ones. It's a ground line, so it's not electrified, but it will (hopefully) serve as a deterrent to keep my little escape artists inside their pasture. Interestingly enough, Angel was out of the fence the entire time I was working on the fence yesterday -- all she wanted to do was graze in the unfenced area. I guess the grass IS always greener on the other side of the fence.

Well, the beeper has just gone off and the full-ripened scent of cinnamon is telling me that I need to close and pull my rolls from the oven. Here's wishing that you find joys in life's simple things, like fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon rolls and horses that stay in their pastures, until we speak again.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year from Critter Country!

January 1, 2010

Greetings to a New Year! The sun is shining, but it is bitterly cold outside, so much that I’m cuddled up on the couch with the lap desk and netbook. I should, of course, be grading the projects that are sitting to my side; however, I’m attempting to upload a new profile picture to my Facebook and doing a bit of journaling. Tucker is curled up on the couch next to me, so peaceful that I don’t think my conscience will be able to disturb him in order to retrieve my Snuggie. Lucy is snoring at my feet, which will keep me from putting up the legs of the recliner so I can be totally comfortable once I eventually get to grading. Sophie is curled up in front of the French doors. All are sleeping, and the sense of peace makes the quietness of the house less lonely. I have flipped on the Rose Bowl Parade in order to have some noise in the background; plus, I want to see the horses.

Speaking of horses, I need to brave the cold later this morning and figure out why Angel was in the yard. The fence doesn’t appear to be broken anywhere, but she was outside of it this morning. At least she didn’t go far, and was more than willing to run back in when she saw me standing at the gate with a bucket of grain. Maybe she went through the middle of the two strands, in which case, I’ll need to get out and install a middle strand sometime soon. I think I have the materials around the barn somewhere, but it would be nice to complete that task in above-freezing temperatures (which are not forecast any time soon).
I still have the coolers out on the deck from Christmas last week, and the birds have managed to strew seed all over them, so my peace is constantly disturbed by the sound of the woodpeckers gathering seed off the top of the plastic coolers – it sounds as if someone is knocking on the door. At least the dogs know the difference and are not leaping into their customary visitor cacophony of greetings each time we hear a tap-tap at the door. The cowbirds are back this morning for the year. This is the first time I’ve seen them this winter season, and their arrival heralds the inevitable departure of my pretty cardinals.

So, I’m going to put the computer aside now and embark on grading the portfolio projects. I have 34 or so done, and 77 some left (with 3 days to get them finished). I’m actually in pretty good shape to not have to force myself to do them all the day before I go back to work. I’d love to get a majority of them finished today, so I can take the grades to the library tomorrow and get the quarter averages figured. Of course, since Monday is a guest speaker in the morning and no official plans in the afternoon, I’m wondering if I can sneak back to my classroom after lunch and get ready for the upcoming semester – I haven’t really even thought about lesson plans, and it’s getting to that point in the program.

Books Read:
The Moon Looked Down by Dorothy Garlock