Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Rain Cometh

Today we finally got rain, a weather event which made me happy.

First, we needed the rain. My backyard was full of large cracks where the ground had split from being so dry. Also, I bought some perennials this weekend and wanted a few wet days so I could put the plants in the ground.

Second, I like rain. Here in northeast Ohio, we have lots of cloudy weather--those of us who have been raised here are used to it. I particularly love a rainy night: I like sleeping to the sound of the water falling from the trees and on the roof, I like driving on the wet, shiny roads and hearing the sounds my tires make in the standing water.

And third, I am hoping the rain knocks some of the pollen out of the air so EG stops coughing from allergies so we can both sleep at night. Probably the most unromantic reason, but foremost in my mind.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Taxi Driver

I teach adults, and my area of specialization is the developmental level.

Some of these are people who squeaked by in high school, some need some assistance in bringing their written language to a level which parallels their spoken language, and some just didn't take the placement test seriously.

Unfortunately, I find more and more that I am teaching basic employability skills along with the parts of speech, paragraphing, and essay format. I am talking about things like showing up, calling off if absent, being punctual, not answering a cell phone during class lectures, wearing pants belted somewhere that is closer to the waist than the knees, removing hats indoors, covering abundant cleavage and huge tattoos, not cussing, and getting along with people who are challenging (i.e., smacking those who annoy us is not an acceptable way to act). There are days where I need to remind myself about that last one.

When the students fight me on my expectations, I point out that, yes, I am a fifty year old white woman, but guess who is doing the hiring--fifty year old white women. I do refrain from adding, "Duh."

One thing which I am noticing recently is the under the breath editorializing, much like I get at home from my preteen. For example, I generally will schedule a test the last hour of class. Class policy is that tests are given only during the scheduled time, as we have found that students will regularly make appointments during class time, or they will come when it is convenient for them and expect to make up the test.

So, a student will come to me on test day and say, "Can I take my test now?"

I will say, "The test will be given from noon until one today."

The student will then say, "But I have an appointment."

I will repeat that the test will be given from twelve until one.

"But I have an appointment."

Uh-huh. And the test is from twelve until one.

The student will then return to his or her seat muttering under his or her breath. "This is murmurmurmur. I have an appointment, and murmurmurmur, and murmurmurmur treat us like adults."

Some people will also start to take the test and have to leave. "This murmurs me off. I don't have time to murmur the murmur. I should be able to finish the work. Murmurmurmur so unfair."

I find that I am less tolerant of this behavior than I used to be. I find it passive aggressive and immature. Today was a bad day for the muttering and sputtering, and I suddenly flashed back to Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. "You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talking... you talking to me? Well I'm the only one here. Who . . . do you think you're ...talking to? Oh, yeah. OK." Draws weapon.

So, rather than snap one day next week and end up on some ghastly news magazine show on some woman's network, I am going to have to address this with my students. Since I am modeling Appropriate Workplace Behavior, and since the only weapon I have is a Swingline Stapler, I need to do so in a manner which is professional and a good example to them. So, I will have to live the Taxi Driver scenario in my mind while smiling and pointing out that employers will not tolerate what I have tolerated this week. And then, with a little Travis Bickle edge, I will add that I won't be willing to entertain it anymore.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Last week, my sister and I discussed my mother's recent decline and decided it was time to call hospice. My mother's doctor signed the order, which was a bittersweet victory--we were right in judging it was time.

Since my father was diagnosed five years ago, we have gone through losing him to Alzheimer's, only to have Mom diagnosed right before his death with dementia as well. We are both so very tired--perhaps we are even numb. Going through this once is hard and unfair--going through it twice is beyond that.

My father was a smoker, so the inside windows of the family car were always filmy, making viewing the passing scenery a challenge. In the backseat, my sister and I were never 100 percent sure where we were once it got dark.

Now it is as if we are in the backseat of the car, Mom now behind the wheel. We are unable to see over the seat back ahead of us, nor are we able to see clearly out the side windows. We kind of know where we are going, as we have been here before. However, Mom has her signal on, has had in on for quite a while, and we aren't sure if we are exiting, or if it is a false alarm.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Since last evening, I am responsible for eight deaths, and I feel only slightly guilty.

We have been overrun by mice. I believe part of it is the construction at the corners, as about five acres of the rodents' natural habitat is now gone. However, part of it is the animal feed we have been keeping in the garage, and part is also the death of Fuzzy, our neighbor's cat, who was an excellent huntress although abundantly challenged in the intelligence department.

Anyway, yesterday morning, I set a trap in the garage and caught the mother mouse. When I got home from work, I found my youngest two standing in the driveway, staring at the back wall of the garage, where these darling tiny baby mice were running frantically around, looking for Mom. My stomach squinched up at the thought of what I'd done and at the panic those babies must have been feeling. I suppose I have been reading too much children's literature, which features mice and other vermin in charming illustrations.

Rocky said, "They're so CUTE...but think of the diseases." He had a point.

I determined the location of the nest and guiltily pulled it out of the garage, which displaced the babies even further. Then I set two mouse traps and closed the garage door. After a while, I heard that dreaded snap, and opened the door to find three small corpses. I donned latex gloves, and I pulled the bar off the trap after covering the bodies, shuddering as I released them into a plastic bag for disposal. Despite my guilt, I set the traps again, only to discover four dead this morning, three more babies and an adult.

Much to my horror, I have adopted a cold, calculating attitude about this situation. I gazed right at the fuzzy gray bodies and thought, "Good--fewer adults to invade us" as I threw the remains into the field for the fox and coyote. And I again reset the traps before going to work.

To make matters worse, I am stopping on the way home to buy yet more traps.

I guess this means war--Stuart Little had better watch out.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Like fine wines

What is the fascination with Dancing with the Stars? Maybe I'm missing something here.

Okay, I'll grant anyone that Mario what's his name is NOT hard to look at (but he looks so young to me, although I suppose those abs and those dimples are a killer combination); however, why would I want to watch John Ratzenberger dance?

Of course, I am feeling my age. This past week, I went to the doctor, who refrained from mentioning that I was getting to be that age (he is close to it himself, so I would take it easier from him than from Doogie Howser), but he did suggest I go in for my 50,000 mile checkup.

This made me realize that I was no longer at the point in my life where I am susceptible to cuteness in men. I am more interested in men who have some miles on them, men who have lived enough to have that perception which comes from experience and living, to have wisdom about what is important, who know that sometimes the right thing to do is just to shut up and do nothing.

Does this mean that I would be more interested in spending time with John Ratzenberger than Mario? I don't know...I only know Mr. Ratzenberger as the annoying Cliff Klaben on "Cheers" and have never heard Mario open his mouth and utter a word (or perhaps I was distracted at the time and didn't realize he was talking).

There have always been men who have become more appealing as they aged--Sean Connery comes to mind. And there have been men, like Pierce Brosnan, who have been attractive at whatever they age they were, as they somehow evolved each level of attractiveness. However, as I age, too, I realize that no longer do I find the teenagers, the heart-throbs all that interesting.

And, somehow, that reassures me and saddens me at the same time.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Thursday would have been my father's eightieth birthday.

I had two dogs scheduled for a vet visit, and my sister called to offer me help wrangling the Labradors. I wasn't going to take her up on her offer, but then I remembered the date, so I gratefully accepted.

Neither of us mentioned the anniversary that day.

However, the next day, I reminded her. "I know," she said.

She then shared with me that she is reminded of my father many times a day, as every time she looks down at her own hands, she sees my father's hands as well. "And I don't know what to do about it," she said.

"Get a tattoo," I suggested, joking, as I have never wanted anything decorative as permanent as a tattoo.

"What," she asked. "Like LOVE and HATE?"

"Or maybe SIT DOWN and SHUT UP," I suggested.

My family lives in the house I was raised in, and I have been hesitant to make changes. It almost seemed like I was eradicating my parents' memory.

However, I now know I need to make this house my own, not just by the repairs we do, but by the decorating. Never mind that the decor is not at all to my taste, it is not healthy to keep it a shrine to my parents. So this week, I will finish preparing the bathroom, and then I will paint it my beach-themed aqua and hang my shoreline prints on the wall. Then I will move to the hall, and tear down my mother's beloved wallpaper and use plain white paint, and then start on yet another room. Like my sister, I will always have some constant reminders of my parents, but I can change the form of some of them so the memories are truly mine.