Saturday, November 29, 2014

Conquering Obstacles (Part 1--An Angel)

No matter how hard a person might try, what seems like insurmountable obstacles become a way of life whether they are financial, psychological, physical, emotional, marital, behavioral, medical, or unfortunately, a combination. No two people have identical lifetime experiences, nor do they handle similar situations in the same manner; but that's what makes each of us unique.

My father was a gruff-sounding, hard-working fellow that would give the shirt off his back to a perfect stranger, or loan money to a co-worker in need even though he himself was not wealthy by any means. He was outrageously opinionated, while my mother was a soft-spoken lady who made friends easily and never had a bad word to say about anyone. Everyone loved them both dearly.

Following my father's return from World War II, they became the proud parents of a bouncing baby girl--that would be ME! Weighing in at 5 lbs., 15 oz., I grew into a giggly, naturally curly-haired toddler who was undoubtedly their pride and joy. But within a split second, the obstacle struck like lightning, not only changing my life forever, but theirs as well.

They watched over me as I lay in the hospital, stiff as a board, for the next six weeks, while the doctors resonated to them the fact that I would never walk again. The befuddled doctors didn't know what to do--it was an epidemic--with no cure. Every case appeared to be different, but in my case after six weeks with still no change, they gave no hope. My mother reiterated to them, "You are WRONG! She WILL walk again!"
The next several years of my life are like pages ripped from a best-selling novel. What happened during those years, I still didn't know except what I learned from a small number of photographs that my mother didn't share with me until years later. All she ever told me was that I had to learn to walk again...
I always thought that my parents were in some sort of denial because my illness was something that was NEVER mentioned. It was as though I was like every other "normal" toddler, but now I know why.
Six months before my father passed away , he told me the story of how one night he was tucking me into bed, when he looked up and saw an angel over me. He knew then that everything was going to be okay. God was watching over me.
To be continued...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It's Not MY Job!!

Having been married for 35 years, I learned early on that if you don't particularly like doing a household task, then DON'T DO IT!! If you willingly choose to do it, then the task will become YOURS! You will own it!! It is possible, however, to undo this catastrophic mistake through pouting, whining, tears, and abstinent behavior! Oh me, Oh, my--a Freudian slip! I meant to say obstinate behavior. But if abstinence works for you, even better!

I'm not sure how long it took to train TC, my adorable other half, but I do so much love my pedestal! Yes! I admit it--I am totally spoiled! In my world, there is nothing better. Let me share my "NOT MY JOB" list with you.

WHAT I DO NOT DO!


  • I despise yard work! Thus, I haven't mowed a lawn in more than 25 years. I used to mow until he wanted a riding mower. Great! I'll buy you one, but don't expect me to use it-- It's not MY job!

  • I have never, and I do mean never, cooked on a BBQ grill, and we BBQ all year long. BBQ'ing is a man's world--it's not MY job!

  • I'll go fishing with anyone who asks me, but don't dare ask me to bait my hook with anything that's alive--that is definitely not MY job!

  • There was a time while living in Virginia that I went 4 years (unless I was traveling out of town for work) without putting gas in my car. What woman wants to smell like gasoline? To this day, I still don't unless I'm on the road alone or with a companion. It's not MY job!

  • I buy TC any boy toy he wants--chainsaws, leaf blowers, snow blowers, weed eaters, any kind of shovels (thought I should clarify "boy toys"), but never expect me to use one. It's not MY job!

  • I love decorating for the holidays, especially Christmas, including outdoor lights, reindeer, candy canes, etc., but don't think I'll be helping to display any of them. It's not MY job!

  • Speaking of lights, I have never changed a burned out light bulb that's more than shoulder high. It's not MY job!

  • When the power goes out, I never reset any of the clocks in the house. I don't work, don't have to be anywhere at any given moment. They can blink endlessly because to set them is not MY job!

  • One major rule at my house is... If you break it, you fix it. If I break it, you fix it. Why? It's not MY job!

  • When taking a vacation, I never put anything into the car--that's why I have my "Cabana Boy." Oh, and he has gotten so good at packing the car over the years. I'm so happy that this is not MY job!

  • I hate grocery shopping. And yes, there was a time when I went 3 years without stepping foot into one of those stores. I should explain, though, that TC was home from work before me, drove right by the store while on his way home, and would stop to "pick up" a few items. In fact, that's when he actually began his "cooking" career...and I loved it!

  • If I do happen to go to the grocery store, I refuse to buy beer. I don't drink it...so I don't buy it. It's not MY job!

  • In regard to cooking, it's a fact that today 27% of all men are the chief cooks in their household. In the UK, it's 50%. Climb on that pedestal, Ladies! It is no longer OUR job!!

  • Just because I love to shop does not mean that I should buy my own gifts. Put that remote down and get moving. It's not MY job!

  • What I Do!


    I imagine that you're wondering by now what is it that I actually do. I'm on that pedestal remember, so I do anything I want!


  • Well, almost anything. I do the laundry even though it's not my favorite thing to do, but draw the line at filthy, grimy, pungent work clothes. That is NOT my job!

  • I do the cleaning...which is worse than laundry on a scale of 1 to 10.

  • I manage our money and pay the bills. Heaven forbid that anything should happen to me because TC would need to hire an accountant.

  • I make all of the appointments whether it's for the doctor, dentist, driver's license, contractor, etc. Oh, wait! TC DOES make the calls to order pizza, only because I think he should feel "needed."

  • I cook as little as possible with the exception of holiday dinners. If it's my night to cook, it will be "dine out" or "take out." He never should have started cooking if he didn't want to make it HIS JOB!

  • However, I love to decorate cakes for holidays and my grandkids birthdays and always find myself baking special "goodies" for TC.

  • I know you will find this very hard to believe, but I love doing the painting. In all the years we have been together, TC has only done one painting project, which was to paint the shed. Ummm...that was 3 years ago, and the white "primer" on the trim has not yet been covered. Perhaps in a year or two it will get done. You might be thinking that I should paint that trim because I love to paint. But...I didn't start the project (other than hiring the landscaper and the contractor), so finishing what TC started is not MY job!

  • I plan all of our vacations, usually two or three a year. Now whether or not he chooses to either work or go with me is his choice. But, oh, how I do love having my "cabana boy" with me!

  • Finally, I love playing game on Facebook, and I'm going to make that MY job!

  • In my own world, do I find myself on a pedestal? Absolutely...and think that's where every woman belongs!


    Every list will not be the same, but please remember, if you don't particularly like doing a certain task, don't do it. Just say,



    IT'S NOT MY JOB!!


















































































      Sunday, July 24, 2011

      The "Most Wicked" Award

      I admit that I am not perfect by any means, but what did I do to deserve my sister, who is 9 years younger than me? LuAnn is married and has two children, Ashley and Tyler, who are now both in their early 20's. Ashley, unfortunately, has several of her mother's traits, while Tyler is quite subdued and spends most of his time at college or at work.

      Ever since I can remember, my sister demonstrated that her goal in life was to be better than everyone else at any expense. She had to have the best of everything and would casually mention how much she paid, but no one dare ask her what she paid for an item because that was not acceptable behavior. It was on a "volunteer" basis only. Who cared if she spent $4,000 for a bed, $2,000 for a nightstand, or $6,000 for an armoire? Not me--That just proved how crazy she was.

      When my mother passed away three years ago, my sister let it be known that she was totally disowning my brother Bob (11 years younger) and me for reasons that she failed to mention. I personally believe that "Money is the root of all evil." You be the judge as I share a few of her unsavory personal traits which best describe her.

      NOSY

      One night Bob, LuAnn, and my mother decided to go to the Bingo Parlor. Because Bob was short on cash, he headed for the ATM machine. Unbeknownst to him, my sister creeped up from behind; and when he retrieved the bank receipt, she asked him, "How much money do you have in that account?" Stunned beyond belief, he asked, "WHAT?" and she innocently repeated the question. He was so angry that she had the gall to ask such a personal question, he literally threw the receipt in her face and yelled, "It's none of your business, but if you want to know that damn bad, look at it yourself!" and walked away. When she saw that he had over $18,000 in his checking account, she gave him nasty looks and did not speak to him for the remainder of the evening.

      On another occasion Janelle came bouncing into my parent's home excited to finally spend quality time with the family. LuAnn instantly noticed that Jen was toting a Louis Vuitton purse and sporting a huge diamond on her finger. The never-ending mission continued as LuAnn pumped and pumped for details, but Jen held her ground and "Mum" was the word. Needless to say, my sister was obviously pouting and green with envy as she stomped out the door.

      Terry and I enjoyed sending my parents on a vacation of their choice at least once or twice a year; or we sometimes would invite them to join us on ours. Unfortunately, I made a HUGE mistake once by asking my sister and her family to accompany my parents, Terry, and me on a trip to Florida. [I felt sorry for Ashley and Tyler (in their early teens) because they had never had an opportunity to travel before and thought it would be quite the adventure for them.] What was I thinking??? Ten days of pure hell!...which leads me to her next trait...

      MISERLY

      Upon arriving in Florida, we all agreed that each group would pay their own way regarding meals and activity tickets. I had arranged for us to stay at an exclusive resort; and it didn't surprise me that she offered nothing toward the cost. That was probably because she was forced to pay for their rental car, while my parents, Terry, and I traveled together in our own rental.

      At the end of a scrumptious dinner our first night in Orlando, my mother and I each laid out a $5 tip for our attentive waiter while my sister revealed a $2 tip for the four of them. When LuAnn saw what my mother and I were offering, she withdrew her tip and started walking away. When I suggested that she leave a tip, her response was, "Your tip is more than he deserves."

      From that moment on, her attitude changed from somewhat "normal" to ultimate "bitchiness." How dare I tell her what to do. She complained about the hotels in Daytona Beach and Ft. Lauderdale, the restaurants we chose, the cost of gas, the toll roads, and even the weather. The day cruise to the Bahamas I had planned was the worst ever. She refused to leave the expected gratuity at mealtimes because "The waiters didn't do anything" she emphatically stated, and made her children drink water rather than soda because water was free (even though it was served by the waiter). The only good thing about that vacation was she did reimburse me for the airline and cruise tickets. WOO HOO!!!

      UNGRATEFUL

      My sister expected others to come running at her beckoned call (and give nothing in return, as usual). "Moving Day" can be stressful for all of us, but this incident has to be the funniest ever--NOT at the time, though! They were moving from a beautiful home in the Billings Heights to a "superior" home in a prestigious neighborhood across town. The plan was for my parents and brother to arrive early on Saturday to aid in the move.

      The moment they walked through the door that morning at the scheduled time, the "#@!# hit the fan." Not one box had been packed!! My father was absolutely fuming as he glared at the clothes on the floor, the dirty dishes in the sink and dishwasher, all the home decor in its place, and the four of them enjoying breakfast. Words cannot even describe what happened next! Picture an angry father hurling dishes, food, clothes, and anything else close by into boxes and not caring one iota if items became damaged....oh...and swearing the whole time! Meanwhile, Bob was loading boxes of clothing into the back of his pickup. He was oblivious to the fact he should tie them down, or perhaps he just didn't care. (He wasn't happy that day either.) As he was flying down the interstate, the boxes were flying out of the truck. Whoopsie! In his rear view mirror he could see semi trucks crushing the boxes and clothing being strewn across the highway. "Oh, well, not MY problem" he mumbled while retrieving the clothing, which now donned filthy, black tire tread marks. All in all, it was not a good day in the "prestigious" neighborhood.

      REVENGEFUL

      Revenge comes when it's least expected, sometimes hurting the people you love the most. My mother always looked forward to hosting family get-togethers, especially during the holidays. However, when she was stricken with cancer, she hoped that LuAnn would carry on the family tradition. I just didn't see that happening because neither I nor my family had ever been invited to her "new" home which was now ten years old. The day before Easter, my sister had not yet invited anyone for dinner. Consequently, on Easter morning, Terry and I rose early and drove 150 miles to take my mother and brother to their favorite restaurant for dinner. When LuAnn discovered SHE wasn't invited, she became spiteful and was going to punish ME by not sending an invitation to Tyler's graduation party. I assumed that she would have dinner for her in-laws as she had done in the past. She could and should have invited our mother. Who was hurt the most? Certainly not me, but our mother and Tyler.

      When it was time for Ashley's graduation, Janelle received an announcement and graciously sent a congratulatory card. LuAnn fumed because Jen failed to include money. Wait a minute here!! Cousins sending cousins graduation announcements? Aren't they supposed to be sent to aunts and uncles? Get real, woman!! She thought that by not attending my son's wedding, she was "getting even" although she had attended Janelle's wedding. Who was hurt the most? Not me--not my family--only her family because they missed a great time!

      GREEDY

      Years ago my parents named my sister the executor of their estate because she lived the closest to them. She acted as though she was in control and had the "POWER" now that my father had passed away and my mother had become very ill. I believe that it had always been "about the money," but it soon became so obvious to everyone who knew the families.

      My mother had to pay my sister to mow the lawn, to pay for fast food that LuAnn might have picked up on her way, to pay essentially for everything she did for our mother. We had moved back to Montana by this time, but still lived 150 miles away. When my sister told me that she was going to quit her job to take care of our mother AND that mother would have to pay LuAnn what she was earning at her current job, I drew the line. THAT WAS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!! What the hell was wrong with her? No child in her right mind would ever concoct such a scheme.

      From that point on, I was the one with the control irregardless of what the "paperwork" said. I stayed with my mother, and I took her for radiation and chemotherapy treatments because I wanted to--not because I had to or because I wanted to be "paid." I spent those last precious months with her as we shopped when she felt strong enough, relived good times as we toured our old neighborhoods, reminisced over photographs, laughed about the silly things we had done over the years, and shared stories from the heart. But most meaningful of all, I was the one with her the night she passed away.

      HEARTLESS

      At our mother's funeral, LuAnn refused to join Bob and me in the receiving line to accept condolences from grieving friends and family. Rather than coming to the home afterward to be with family, she chose to go shopping. It would be four days before she appeared, only to tell us that nothing was to leave the house because she had the "POWER TO DECIDE." She blatantly informed us that everything in the home would be sold. She may have had that "power," but I had the last word. "Get over it! Mother never had a garage sale in her life, and we're not about to start now!"

      I truly believe that the word "family" has no special meaning to her. As we were selecting mementos for ourselves or close friends of my parents, I handed LuAnn a Christmas ornament that she had gifted to my father. It was the cutest Santa packing a golf bag filled to the brim with clubs. Her rely: "I don't want THAT. I'm not a golfer." Did she honestly believe that's why I gave it to her? She desperately needed help with her mental issues. She took no photographs of our parents, but she did take a 1976 encyclopedia set that she tried to sell for $600 in the Thrifty Nickel. *shaking my head* Bob and I chose to give larger items to appreciative friends, donated the remaining items to the Montana Rescue Mission, and donated the money from sympathy cards to the American Cancer Society.

      Three years have passed. As for LuAnn, she never did return to her job as a medical recordkeeper following the funeral. Perhaps she thought she could live off the inheritance and the thousands of dollars she stole from Bob and me. I have not seen nor talked to her since that day. Bob, however, saw her in an advertisement preview at the movie theater. She's now working at a furniture store, which I'm certain gives discounts to employees. She must be much happier knowing she can continue to "Keep up with the Joneses." Remember, it's all about the money and the prestige!

      PS: I did ask the pastor to spend time with her, hoping he could give her the serious pyschological help she so desperately needs. God bless her and her family.

      Tuesday, July 19, 2011

      Birthday Reflections--the Good, the Bad, and Oh, Yes, the UGLY!!

      As I grew up, it seemed that every birthday celebration was the same for each family member--a gathering of the entire clan of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and close neighbors to feast on cake and ice cream while watching the "birthday girl" open her presents. There were no sleepovers, no swimming parties, no McDonald's parties, no pizza parties, and definitely no parties at Chuck E Cheese.

      The birthday cakes were usually identical every year, a homemade 13 x 9 chocolate cake, the only difference being the number of candles to blow out. I could say the same for the presents, usually a cute birthday card with money enclosed (hopefully, a $5 bill, but more often than not, a dollar or two). I didn't complain, though, because I loved shopping for my own gifts.

      After having had so MANY birthdays, most seemed to come and go so quickly, leaving only a few memorable ones to reflect upon, though at the time, each was the best day of my life. (with the exception of the most UGLY birthday ever!)


      THE GOOD

      For my 13th birthday, the milestone of becoming a teenager, my parents abandoned the "ritual" and treated me to a birthday dinner at what was considered the fanciest restaurant in town. The only other family members invited were my grandparents. This was the first time I had ever dined out...a luxury for my family...who were not wealthy by any means. I ordered fried chicken...I LOVED fried chicken! My father ordered a special drink for me that day, my very first "Shirley Temple." How grown up I felt at that moment...a moment I would never forget.

      My 15th birthday wasn't exactly "good" considering that I was in the Shrine Hospital for Children six hundred miles from home, I hadn't seen my parents in six weeks and didn't know when I would see them again, and I wasn't able to talk with them on the telephone. However, I had the BEST party ever!! As my 35 "inmates" and I entered the Sun room, my eyes immediately spotted my birthday cake, a 3-tiered white with pink polka dots cake. We all laughed so hard!! "Why?" you might ask. Because my favorite dress from the communal clothes closet was white with pink polka dots! Oh, and the music was blaring! All of our favorite tunes from the Monkees to the Beatles played throughout the afternoon. The nursing staff and the doctors on call that day danced and partied their hearts out for us...just as they did on EVERY child's birthday. They definitely knew how to throw a party!

      My 16th birthday was undoubtedly my most AWESOME birthday! My family had never taken a vacation other than going fishing for the weekend or riding snowmobiles on the Beartooth Pass switchbacks during the winter months. However, for this "rite of passage" birthday, they sent me to California for six weeks. I spent the entire time traveling and exploring every tourist trap from Sacramento to the racetrack in Caliente, Mexico. Eventually, I was able to send my parents on numerous vacations, thanking them for the many sacrifices they had made for me.


      THE BAD

      For me, a "bad" birthday is a forgotten birthday...

      I failed to count how many years of marriage passed before TC was able to remember my birthday. Oh, he would eventually remember--a day or two later. His excuse was, "Well, I know what day your birthday is, but I just don't know WHAT DAY it is." *looking confused* Hmmm...he knew it was the 18th...just didn't know if the 18th was on a Monday, Tuesday, etc. Give the fella a calendar!! (He eventually burned it into his memory--not wanting to hear another "WHATEVER!" from me as he tried to explain his forgetfulness.)


      OH, YES, THE UGLY!!

      It was the evening of July 17, 1999, and we were spending the night in a hotel in Fredericksburg, MD. Tomorrow, my birthday, we would be moving into our new apartment in Herndon, VA. I was elated to say the least. A few months prior, we had traveled to the east coast to visit my new place of employment and to search for an apartment. We had decided earlier to live in the area for a short period of time before purchasing a family home.

      Oh, how naive I was back then! I actually thought that the "model" apartment we viewed would actually be what lied ahead for us, but I was sadly mistaken. Upon arriving at the apartment and walking through the front door, words could not describe how I felt. I was totally devastated!!!

      It stunk like mildew from a water-soaked carpet in the kitchen/dining room area. The entire apartment was filthy dirty, including the mini-blinds that hung askew. It was totally trashed!! And I was raving mad!! Eventually, big fans were brought in to dry out the carpet, which added to the 100-degree heat outdoors and the soaring humidity that I hated even more! That's all I needed!

      As the fellas and my daughter Janelle unloaded the U-Haul, all I could do was cry...and cry...and cry even more. Janelle's meltdown several days ago was NOTHING compared to mine that day. It was by far the worst birthday EVER!



      BEERS, JEERS, and TEARS!! best described that day!


      Beers--TC had more than his fair share of beers after moving in that day, and who could blame him?

      Jeers--Well, they were more like "daggers" being thrown at the management.

      Tears--Need I say more?

      And for my curious readers... Yes, we did break our lease with management and move out...none too soon for us.










      Monday, May 16, 2011

      Seriously? You Have a Driver's License? (Part 3 of 3--The Woman and the Guardrail)

      I am truly not a person who finds automobile accidents humorous, but this blog reveals the most hilarious incident I have ever seen. I just shook my head and thought, "She is one in a million!"

      After moving to Northern Virginia, I learned quickly that there are more than a few individuals who have NO clue how to drive safely in snow. That was obvious when half an inch of snow resulted in a 115-car pileup our first winter there. From that moment on, I knew I could always expect the unexpected.

      The highway department was usually very efficient in snow preparation; however, after a late-night, early-morning snowfall of 7-9 inches, the snowplows had been out, but the sanding trucks had not. The roads were snow packed yet very icy in spots. As I was slowly making the nine-mile journey to work, I creeped up to a stoplight, only to see what I thought was the funniest sight ever!

      Picture This!!

      Heavy snow pushed up so high against a guardrail that it was almost entirely covered.

      A car balancing carefully atop the guardrail...all four tires hanging in limbo.

      A woman rolling down her car window and ever so slightly leaning toward the window...obviously trying not to force the car to topple over the edge.

      A policeman staring upward at her probably thinking to himself: "How the hell did you get up THERE?"

      I giggled all the way to work wondering: "How did she ever unintentionally, of course, get her car on the guardrail perfectly balanced? She was very lucky in that respect, but how would she manage to get out of the car without it tumbling in either direction? Would she jump? Oh...perhaps the officer would offer to catch her. :) I can imagine the stories they both had to tell that day!



      Where was my camera when I needed it?

      Sunday, May 15, 2011

      Seriously? You Have a Driver's License? (Part 2 of 3--The NJT "Revver")

      Having lived in a small town for years, I saw teenagers, both boys and girls, spinning "cookies," jumping snowdrifts, and "revving" their engines to let bystanders know just how "hot" their vehicle was! But the driver described in my next encounter, has them all beat. Please, do NOT try this while driving!

      The first time I drove on the NJT (New Jersey Turnpike), I was venturing to a conference in Atlantic City. Early on in my journey, it became apparent that drivers on both the NJT and the Atlantic City Expressway were FAST (driving at least 20 miles over the limit) and FEARLESS (of being ticketed for speeding.) When I spotted red and blue flashing lights in the far distance, I thought that the driver who had just passed me had been "nabbed." I couldn't have been more wrong. Those flashing lights were from a patrolman who was not capturing a speeder, but was parked in the barrow pit watching cars whiz by. I was baffled but wasn't going to second-guess a highway patrolman. Perhaps he felt safer alongside the highway rather than ON the highway.

      One Sunday afternoon, TC and I were headed home, having spent the day riding the roller coasters at Six Flags in Jackson, NJ. Traffic was moving right along at perhaps an 85 m.p.h. clip when vehicles came to a screeching halt...stopped dead in their tracks! Because merging traffic was not usually a problem on the NJT, this meant either there was an accident ahead or the toll booths were backed up due to heavy traffic.

      I'm not sure why it is that when no cars are moving, some drivers have a tendency to either honk the horn or "rev" their motors. Do they think that this will make fellow drivers move any faster? Or is it perhaps their way of entertaining everyone?

      This particular day we had a "revver" beside us who immediately got my attention. Varoom! Varoom! ... louder and louder...yet not moving! Hmmm... young--perhaps late 20's; a fairly new car though I didn't notice the make and model; impatient?--didn't appear to be as he looked in my direction and grinned broadly. Oh, sorry to burst your bubble, Kiddo, but I'm not the least impressed.

      By now, we were idling forward inch by inch at about 5-10 m.p.h. Every so often, traffic would surge ahead two or three feet--that was progress! The "revver" occasionally fell behind, but always seemed to end up next to us. Varoom! Varoom! I just shook my head and laughed, thinking that he surely must be bored as he continued to try to get my attention.

      Eventually, he did!!! He was approximate four or five car lengths ahead of us when suddenly our lane of traffic began moving, rather quickly I might add. As TC accelerated, I had my eye on the "revver," who had obviously seen our lane open up. As he looked to the right, he, too, accelerated. "VAROOM! VAROOM! CRUNCH!! BANG!! SCREECH!!" and ran right SMACK into the back end of the car in front of him! Whoopsie!! It seems that his lane was not moving as fast as ours!

      What a total idiot!! Of course, we became the "rubber-neckers" as TC slowed down to assess the damage of the vehicles. Oh, he thought that there was only several thousand dollars in damage...but still quite an expensive price to pay for a little entertainment from the "Revver." So much for traffic moving in both lanes for the time being as the drivers would attempt to move their cars and "fallen bumpers" to the shoulder of the highway.

      A reminder to my readers: Always drive beside a "revver" and never in front of them!

      Saturday, May 14, 2011

      Seriously? You Have a Driver's License? (Part 1 of 3--"Meet Suzanne")

      Throughout our decades spent behind the "wheel," we have more than likely encountered instances of disbelief by what a driver said or did. It wasn't until we moved to the east coast that I discovered just how many people didn't know how to maneuver their automobile in traffic (or out of traffic for that matter). Of course, with more than a million cars a day traveling the "Beltway," (Interstate) surrounding Washington, D.C., it amazed me how anyone was able to find his or her way home safely.

      Meet Suzanne

      Suzanne was a co-worker of mine, whom I didn't particularly like. In my mind, she was a "Yuppie!" In her mid-thirties, she displayed an arrogance, prancing through the office in her newly purchased, expensive, brand-name clothing, her nose rising above her eyebrows if that is at all possible, and snubbing anyone and everyone who might have an idea better than her own.

      However, in one respect, she was NOT a "Yuppie." She didn't drive a Lexus, a Mercedes Benz, a BMW, or a Porsche, but drove what eastern Montanans would refer to as a "beater" car. Her faded red Subaru station wagon had definitely seen better days--small crinkles, dents, and bumps gave it quite a unique personality. But, Hey!...who am I to question what she drives?

      Oh! but the truth would soon be revealed! Every Christmas season, Jan, my boss, would treat the staff (all five of us) to a nice luncheon, followed by an afternoon of late-minute holiday shopping. On this particular day, we were to meet at the Ritz Carlton in Tyson's Corner, Falls Church, VA (the shopping mecca of the entire east coast, no doubt!)

      I was contemplating my driving route when Suzanne appeared in my office doorway and casually inquired, "Would you like to ride with me to lunch?" Wow! This was so out-of-character for her so without any hesitation, I replied, "Sure...would love to!" After she left, I thought, "Oh, that means I'm going to have to ride in that station wagon. Yuck! Oh, well! It's a free ride and can't be all THAT bad."

      As I slid into the passenger seat and searched for the seat belt, I was thinking: "This woman leads a double life...she's a total slob in the worst way. Look at the papers on the floor, the candy wrappers on the dashboard, and the empty water bottles layered on the floor in the back. Did she not know these were here when she invited me to ride along?"

      But my thoughts were interrupted by her commenting, "I should tell you something before we leave." (What? Does she think I don't see the mess?) She continued as she started the car and buckled her seat belt, "I've had seven accidents, all of which were my fault. BUT...the good news is that six of them were in parking lots." (Holy crap! She has to be joking! And why did she wait until now to tell me? AND...why would she ever TELL anyone that? To make me feel better? What an idiot!! But it definitely explained the crinkles, dents and bumps! and undoubtedly why her husband hadn't bought her a new car!)

      At this point I was hoping for three wishes to come true:

      1.) That the restaurant has Valet Parking.

      2.) That she NEVER decides to park near MY car.

      3.) That she will NOT have the urge to invite me to ride anywhere with her again.

      Fortunately for all of us, she quit her job shortly thereafter; and our vehicles were left unscathed!

      Friday, March 11, 2011

      The E-Package!

      More than likely all of you have at one time or another used the United Parcel Service (UPS) to either send or receive packages. But this incident is beyond belief!

      My daughter sent me a package from a company in Utah. After asking me again and again if I had received it, she checked the tracking number and mentioned that it had arrived at my town and was out for delivery on FEBRUARY 28, 2011. I even double checked, and she was right!

      Wait a minute!!  That was 12 days ago!

      I did the most logical thing--called the 800# for UPS. Oh, dear me! Upon explaining the situation to a quite patient customer service representative, she informed me that I would not be able to file a complaint, but an investigation would be started once the company who shipped the item contacted UPS. Hmmm...I don't know the name of the company...where it was located...and what the product was that my daughter sent me. But UPS seemed to know everything! She also informed me that the package had not been delivered--the delivery scan was missing...just like my package.

      After I somewhat harassed her, she finally agreed to launch the investigation. Well, I didn't exactly harass her, but explained that the delivery required a signature and that I was leaving town on Monday...which meant that if the package WERE delivered, I wouldn't be home to accept it. What a CATCH 22 this has become!

      About an hour ago, I received an e-mail from UPS, which contained an attachment. I opened it and discovered that I had just received an E-PACKAGE!!! I've never heard of such a thing! In reality, it was nothing more than the information about my package and where it had originated.

      Now my question is....

      If my package went out for delivery on February 28, WHERE IS IT?

      Monday, February 28, 2011

      What Would You Do? (Part 2 of 2--What I Did!)

      Once again as I watched "What Would You Do?" on Friday night, I recalled an incident in which I totally lost my cool--nothing new to anyone who personally knows me. I admit that I do have a tendency to think before I speak, which is exactly what I did one afternoon while shopping.

      My traveling companion Shelly and I were meandering through the underground mall at Bally's in Las Vegas. There seemed to be very few shoppers walking about; and as we rounded a corner, we saw immediately a stunned woman who had obviously fallen and was still sitting on the ground. As we rushed to assist her, I saw a young gentleman, perhaps in his early thirties, exit from a nearby store and walk by this woman ignoring her as though she were part of the decor. (or so I thought)

      I came unglued and within seconds was in his face! "What is WRONG with you? Why didn't you help that woman? Can't you see she needs help?" as I pointed in her direction. I couldn't believe that he was being so obnoxious...denying that he had seen her...while I continued to rant and rave at him. Meanwhile, Shelly is making faces at me and obviously trying to tell me something, but I ignored her. After my rampage, the gentleman did return to check on the woman (who had already been helped by others), and Shelly tried to explain to me that she honestly believed the fellow didn't walk directly by her--thus, hadn't seen her as he had tried to tell me. Ohhhhhhh dear me! A lesson well learned for future reference.

      ....which came the next day I'm sorry to relate to my readers. The two of us were walking down Las Vegas Blvd. when all of a sudden, another fallen woman! Only this time it was ME! 

      Within seconds I was surrounded by five or six gentlemen who were all questioning me to see if I was okay and extending their hands to help me from the ground. As I glanced up at Shelly, once again she was making faces at me!  What on earth was she doing this time?

      After thanking everyone for their assistance, I turned to Shelly. It seemed that one of the fellas who had rushed to my side was concentrating so hard on helping me that he hadn't realized he was stomping on Shelly's foot the entire time. She was the one in pain, not me! Oh my gosh! We laughed so hard! What a hoot!! Perhaps this could be another scenario for "What Would You Do?"  Shove the fellow on your foot to the ground?  lol


      Now back to the Hard Rock Cafe....

      Bill, Rita, Terry, and I had a superb dinner that evening, choosing NOT to sit by the window, NOT moving our car to a nearby parking garage, NOT asking our server about the safety of parking on the street, NOT choosing a different restaurant, but to just ENJOY our time together.

      As soon as we left the restaurant, the "protector" of our car was immediately at my side asking a variety of questions about our dinner, what we had, was it our favorite, etc. He beamed as he relayed the fact that our car was in perfect condition just as he had promised. He had done a great job!

      Yes, he had as I checked to see if the hubcaps were still in place. He gave me that huge grin of his as I reached into my pocket and handed him a $5 bill. "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" resonated from both him and me. Naturally, he had to scurry over to Bill and wish him luck in Sunday's Cowboys/Redskins game. Another $5 bill...woo hoo!!

      As he held my car door open, I wished him well...."See you the next time!"

      Friday, January 28, 2011

      A Hockey Mom's 'AH HA' Moment

      I recall vividly the day my son came to me and said, "Mom, I want to play hockey." That was the last thing I expected to hear from my 9-year old who had never even been on a pair of ice skates. "Honey, there is no hockey here," I quietly replied. "Uh huh, Mom! I heard it on the radio." Well, of course, I laughed hysterically, but he was insistent and oh-so serious. As I thumbed through the local newspaper, there it was--the dreaded hockey registration notice. It appeared that a group of residents in a nearby town were starting an organized hockey league.

      Therefore, I did what I thought every other mother in my predicament would do--signed him up! Only later did I discover that a few of my friends thought I was crazy--driving 40 miles every day after school for practice and spending weekends going to games and tournaments in Canada and North Dakota, traveling even as far as Grand Forks, ND, and Moorhead, MN. Was I really crazy? Probably! Then again, it's what he wanted to do. If at any time he would have told me that he wanted to quit, I would have agreed because it meant that it was no longer "fun" for him. In fact, as a junior in high school, he played basketball, which was somewhat eye-opening. However, that sport was short-lived as he spent his senior year on the ice.

      I don't know exactly why he chose the goalie position, but it was more than likely because his skating skills left just a little bit to be desired. I had always thought that a goalie needed to possess a certain mindset because it was easy for other players and parents to blame him for a game loss. That's when an excellent coach could and would make all the difference.

      As a mother, I have to admit that I was one of those over-exuberant fans. I never coached from the sidelines, but my favorite "yell" was "Be ready, Bud! Be ready, Bud!" One time I had to laugh at a fellow parent, who didn't attend many games and asked me, "Who is Bud? Do we have a Bud on our team?" *shaking my head*

      My most memorable "hockey mom" moment came during my son's PeeWee (age 12) game. His team was playing in the ND State Championship consolation game for 3rd or 4th place. If they won, it would be the first trophy brought home by any team in the 4-year existence of the Richland Ranger's league.

      At the end of the regulation game, the score was tied; thus, a shootout--five one-on-one shots on each goalie. Oh! I was so excited and yet so nervous for him. I could never imagine being in that position. But he held his own, and the score was still tied at the end of the shootout. Another shootout! I was BEYOND nervous at this point! As the coach was selecting his next five shooters, I saw my son leave the net. What was he doing?? He skated to the bench, lifted his helmet, said something to the coach, and returned to the net. How strange was THAT! After the game, I asked Russ, the coach, what Jason had said to him. Russ laughed and said, "He told me, 'Don't worry, Coach. I've got 'em covered." And he did! The trophy was theirs!

      On the ride home in the car that day, I learned two valuable lessons from my children. Firstly, never under-estimate the love of a hockey sister. While we were all buzzing about the game, Janelle, age 10 at the time, excitedly blurted out, "I have a present for you, Brother!" pulling out of her pocket the "game-winning" puck and handing it over with pride. She beamed from ear to ear as she explained that she had found the official and asked for the puck because that goalie was her Brother! :)

      Secondly, I learned to never under-estimate the influence that a coach can have on my children, good or bad. Once again I had one of those "bad mom" moments as I asked my son, "Wow! You had a super game! How does it feel to be a hero?" He gave me the most peculiar look and quietly replied, "Mom, I'm not a hero. I'm one of a team." In my eyes, Russ was now the true hero--he taught my son well.

      I now have two grandsons playing hockey; and yes, I admit that it's probably all my fault. The picture on the left was taken from the front page of the Dickinson Press. Jackson, 6, is the little guy in blue. This is his second season, and he loves the game! The second pic is Leif, 5, who is in his first year of hockey in Moorhead, Minnesota. His brother Jacob is planning to join next year.



      I only hope that during those 8 years as a "hockey mom" and a "basketball, volleyball, and track mom," I was able to give my children insight as to what to do and, even more importantly, what NOT do as a supportive parent. I definitely made my mistakes, but hopefully the lessons I learned will guide them as they now become the supportive "hockey mom and dad."

      It's all about having "FUN!"

      Monday, January 24, 2011

      What Would You Do? (Part 1 of 2--Hard Rock Cafe)

      After watching the new television show "What Would You Do?" I realized that I had experienced a similar situation but with a slight twist and thought my readers would find it somewhat humorous, though I found it rather freakish at the time.

      Shortly after we had moved to the east coast, my cousin Bill and his wife Rita came to D.C. to do the "tourist" gig. One evening, the four of us decided to head for the Hard Rock Cafe. As we turned the last corner before reaching the restaurant, two things struck me as being rather peculiar. First, there were very few cars parked along the street which surprised me, as the Hard Rock is usually always a packed house. Second, I noticed a fella sitting alone on a stoop, which made me wonder if he was one of the hundreds of homeless individuals in the District.

      After we parked, I opened my door, stepped out onto the sidewalk, and gasped in horror! The gentleman (?) I had seen on the stoop was literally holding my car door open for me and smiling. I instantly thought that we were about to be mugged, and more than likely at gunpoint!

      I quickly gave him the once over...he wasn't a large fella, didn't appear to be intoxicated or high, but definitely could use a shower and a clean change of clothing. And what's with this big smile across his face? Is he proud of scaring the living daylights out of me? As I continued to stare at him, he finally spoke:

      "You gonna have dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe?"

      "Ummm...yes we are," as I turned to see Terry, Bill, and Rita now standing outside the car and giving our "visitor" the same stares I had been giving him. I couldn't get away from him soon enough as I joined the other three and headed across the street to the restaurant. But this fella was right alongside us repeating that he would "guard" our car for us.

      "What...what did you say?" I curiously inquired.

      "I will protect your car while you have dinner. You don't have nothin' to worry about."

      Seriously? Should I be worried about my car? What could possibly happen to it? Wait!! Maybe it is time to worry! I'm positive that he knows more about nightlife in D.C. than I surely do.

      He then hustled over to Bill and continued, "You are one big guy...are you a football player? I think you're a Dallas Cowboy, aren't you?"

      (I should explain to my readers that Bill is about 6'3" and weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of 300+ pounds; and it just so happened that the Cowboys were playing the Washington Redskins in a few days from then.)

      Bill just couldn't resist, and in his best version of a Texas accent, he replied, "Yes, I am! so you don't want to be messin' with me."

      "No...no! I like the Cowboys!"

      He accompanied us to the restaurant door, and his final words were, "Have a good dinner." How could I possibly have a good dinner if I was going to spend the next two hours contemplating what might happen next.

      As we waited to be seated, Bill mentioned that we probably wouldn't have any hubcaps or stereo, or worse yet--any car--by the time we left. Of course, we nervously laughed and then discussed our options:

      A: We could ask for window table to keep an eye on the car.

      B: Terry could move the car to a public parking garage several blocks away (which is obviously what the 100+ current patrons had opted to do).

      C: We could choose a different restaurant.

      D: We could ask our server if our car was actually safe parked on the street. (explaining that we were new to the District)

      E: We could ignore our "protector" and enjoy dinner.

      "WHAT WOULD YOU DO?"


      Part 2: See what we chose to do and the result of our decision.

      Thursday, January 13, 2011

      The Clapper

      I am quite certain that the majority of my readers have either seen the television advertisement for "The Clapper" or perhaps even own one. I had forgotten that Terry received one as a gift. He must have tucked it away for a rainy day--or should I say "snowy" day...and he and his "toy" have been driving me crazy ever since.

      The first week of December he assembled my Christmas trees, and I spent the next three days decorating them to perfection. Yes!! They were absolutely gorgeous! He put up the outside lights and Christmas decorations--we were ready for the holiday season.

      However, several days later while he was watching television and admiring our Christmas tree, he jumped out of the chair and made a mad dash to the garage only to return with "The Clapper." I couldn't imagine what he was planning to do with it, but soon found him tinkering under the tree. Oh, nooooooo! He really isn't going to attach it, is he?

      "Clap! Clap!" Nothing happened. Again, "Clap! Clap!" Still nothing. But on the third try--on came the Christmas lights--success at last. "Clap! Clap!--off!" "Clap! Clap"--on! I'm not exactly sure what his reasoning was behind this--perhaps he just wanted to avoid bending over to flip the switch on the light cord.

      But, wait!! The lights just went off with NO "Clap! Clap!" Within minutes we both realized that any loud noise from the television would turn the lights off and on--again and again! I suggested that he remove the device, but he found it rather humorous, so I went about my business cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. Because our living room, kitchen, and dining room are all in one open area, I discovered that ANY noise had the same effect. I couldn't even put away dishes without the lights "doing their thing."

      I could certainly live with flickering Christmas lights; but when Terry's "Clap! Clap!" doesn't work, he resorts to YELLING at the tree, thinking if a loud noise could act like a switch, then so could an obnoxious "HA! HA!" Does he not realize how idiotic that is? I told him that he needed to warn me when he was going to "scream" at our tree. If our neighbors could see him now! I know they can definitely HEAR him!

      We're finally going to celebrate Christmas this weekend with our children and grandchildren--thank goodness! That tree cannot come down soon enough for me; and this time, I will be the one to tuck "The Clapper" away for NO other "snow" day!

      Tuesday, January 11, 2011

      My Cabby World

      Growing up and spending most of my adult years in Montana, I had no call for using a taxi to get from place to place unless my family and I were flying to a vacation destination and needed to get to our hotel. However, most of the time, we would use the airport shuttle or rent a car. If we did resort to using a taxi, I never paid much attention to the driver except for relaying our destination. But, oh how that changed when we made a stop in Nassau, Bahamas.

      Denise, our taxi driver, was by far the most unique driver I had ever encountered. As we left the ship, I spotted her immediately...how could you miss her? She was decked in her finest apparel from head to toe. She wore a bright, fluorescent blue dress with matching high heels, and "bling-bling" that could blind a person. The beat up station wagon that set beside her, though, was enough to question whether or not the four of us should accept her ride. But we did--as well as several other passengers, including her two children she picked up along the way to take to a concert on the beach. She entertained us all the way to our destination, a true delight to have met. Perhaps that's why she was the only cabby's name I have ever remembered.

      Then, of course, there are the cabbies I would rather forget! Very early one Thanksgiving morning, Terry and I were flying out of Dulles Airport for Montana. I had called the previous night for a taxi to ensure our driver would be on time. We waited and waited--I called again. He was late! When he finally arrived and we were headed for the airport, he apologized for being late. He told us his tale of being stopped by a state trooper for "speeding." (Oh, great!! and I wanted him to speed to the airport!) He was from Peru and had only been driving for two weeks, but at least he could speak fairly good English and knew the way to the airport--unlike so many other cabbies in the D.C. area. Of course, my giving directions to the airport or to our home ensured me that it would be the shortest, quickest route--a good thing!!

      In some cases, though, there is no short, quick route to my destination as I discovered one evening as I flew into Albany, NY, the closest airport to my conference site, Saratoga Springs. What? There is no shuttle? I grimaced at the thought of a 40-mile taxi ride, but hoped that the woman cabby would prove to be my best bet. Wrong again! She drove 50 m.p.h. in what I thought was a 70 m.p.h. zone the entire trip while sharing the history of the area, pointing out the sites to see along the way (which were impossible to see in the dark), and complaining about her relatives. I had never in my life spent $75 plus a tip (which my boss always said should be at least $10) for a taxi. What I found rather infuriating, though, was that the return taxi ride to Albany was only $55, plus a tip. Grrrrrrrrrr....

      A month later, my boss and I were waiting at the airport in Gulfport/Biloxi, MS, for a flight home only to discover that there was a problem with the plane. Word came hours later that a part was being flown in; but it wasn't certain when the plane would be repaired, tested, and ready for flight. (Thank you, American Airlines for that information, which I could have lived without!) Meanwhile, the majority of the passengers were looking for alternate flights, my boss and I included. She was becoming quite frustrated because it was a holiday weekend, and she felt guilty that I was spending it in an airport trying to get home. She suggested that I check for any flights out of Mobile, AL. "WHAT?" She wanted me to take a taxi to Mobile (approximately 50+ miles) to catch a flight. This woman had rocks in her head!! No way was I going to do that--I'd rather wait. I wasn't THAT fond of cabbies! And luckily within the hour, I was headed home, leaving her behind to catch the next flight.

      I have to admire those NYC cabbies who are the greatest multi-taskers I've ever seen. They can continually honk their horn, yell at drivers who nonchalantly go about their business, and magically turn a 4-lane street into 6 or 7 lanes. However, my favorite NYC cabby is without a doubt Ben Bailey, who maneuvers those streets as if he owns them. If he had stopped for me, I more than likely would have been kicked to the curb.

      If you're planning a trip to the BIG APPLE, you might consider looking at this website:

      http://dsc.discovery.com/fansites/cashcab/quizzes/quizzes.html

      Practice makes perfect, and good luck finding that ultimate cabby!


      P.S. I'm fortunate if I get perhaps 7 out of 10 questions correct on these quizzes, and they're multiple choice. I can just imagine what my score would be without any help. If I am ever lucky enough to have Ben as my cabby, "Please, Ben, kick me ever so gently." :)

      Friday, January 7, 2011

      Expect the Unexpected! (Part 4 of 4--"Kenny")

      Once again I found myself sitting in the principal's office of Sidney High School. Today she was telling me how pleased the district was with the success of my English and ITV classes, how receptive my students were to my creative teaching techniques, and how they seemed to respond favorably to the class when she talked with them individually. (Obviously she didn't approach the student who, on the second week of class went to his locker to retrieve a pen, paper, and his homework, and never returned for the remainder of the semester.)

      As we were walking down the hallway toward the new room I would be using for my class, we encountered one of the staff's English teachers. After being introduced, she informed me, "I've had Kenny in my class for FOUR years, and he's just so lazy and falls asleep in class. Maybe YOU can do something with him." I glanced quickly at the principal and back to the teacher, "I certainly do hope so."

      I had never been one to pre-judge a student because of comments made by others. I had taught enough years to realize that each student responds differently to either a class or a teacher. Her statement did spark a curiosity in me, though, and I was anxious to meet "Kenny." 

      He was somewhat subdued that first night of class, and I was thankful that he didn't find a need to sleep. To my surprise, as the weeks rolled by he became more outgoing even to the point that he would ask questions, participate eagerly in presentations, and volunteer for certain activities. He was definitely a pleasant, polite young man whose performance was above average.

      One particular evening the students were diligently working on group projects when the superintendent stopped by to observe. He gave me an inquisitive look as he wandered around the room chatting with students who were sitting on the floor doing a variety of activities such as cutting, pasting, writing, reading, gluing or chatting with a group partner. As he approached Kenny, who was lying flat on his back with one leg flung over the other, he asked, "What are you doing, Kenny?"  Without taking his eyes off the book he was holding, he responded, "Reading my Thesaurus." A wink and a "thumbs up" gesture came from the superintendent as he strolled by me and out the door.

      Midway through the semester, I attended a Parent/Teacher Conference and was able to give mostly favorable reports to parents regarding their child's progress in my class. I was especially eager to meet Kenny's mother, as I was certain that she hadn't received many positive comments from his previous English teacher. But when she walked through the door, I couldn't believe my eyes!

      I knew her! By the look on her face, she was just as surprised as I was! Her oldest son and my son played on the same hockey team for several years, and we had worked together in the concession booth and visited at the games and tournaments. However, at that time, Kenny was just a toddler, perhaps 2 or 3 years old. Because they have a common name to the area, I never made the connection. Even if I had, it wouldn't have made any difference. Kenny was an exemplary student that semester.

      At the end of that school year, I retired from teaching, having accepted a job offer that would move us to the east coast. The company for which Terry worked had a going-away party for him. It wasn't until I saw Kenny's mother heading quickly in my direction, that I remembered her husband worked part-time for the same company. Tears were rolling down her cheeks as she hugged me tightly and whispered into my ear, "Thank you for giving Kenny his life back."

      "You're more than welcome, but it wasn't me. Kenny earned it all on his own. He's awesome."


      And with this memorable moment...so ended my days in the ITV world, along with 27 fun-filled years in the classroom.

      Wednesday, January 5, 2011

      Expect the Unexpected! (Part 3 of 4--"Seeing RED!")

      As I readied for school the following morning, I was kicking myself for becoming somewhat lax in videotaping the remote classrooms for scenes exactly like the previous night. It wasn't that I feared the superintendent of Lambert High School wouldn't believe me, but had I documentation, it could demonstrate the severity of the teacher's harsh words. I promised myself that every ITV class from that day forward would be taped.

      Once I had arrived at school and completed my preparation for the first class of the day, I headed to the office to make the necessary telephone call. As I waited for the secretary to connect me to the superintendent, I replayed the incident in my mind. I had never met this gentleman and was curious as to what his reaction would be.

      "Hello."

      "Yes, this is Mrs. Carlson from Savage High School, and I need to visit with you for a moment regarding last night's ITV English class."

      What came next made me see RED! He was laughing...laughing uncontrollably!! Obviously the teacher had given him the wrong impression about what had actually occurred. I saw absolutely nothing funny!!

      As he continued to chuckle, he replied, "Oh yeah...that was ME!"

      "Excuse me?"

      He repeated, "It was me. I sat in on the class and had no idea how that equipment worked. When the kids came out into the hall at break time, they told me that your students could hear every word I said. I didn't know that."

      (I'm totally speechless at the moment...what could I possibly say to him, a superintendent, without being disrespectful?)

      He continued, "Did you notice that I never stepped foot into that room during the last half of your class? I wasn't about to go in there. When I got home that night, I told my wife what I had said. She told me, 'It's time for you to retire.' She was definitely upset with me."

      "Well, Sir, she wasn't the only one. My students became so angry with your comment that I could have had a small riot in my classroom. That student you addressed has enough problems, and really didn't need that."

      "I'm sorry about what happened, and I assure you that I will not enter that class again."


      As I returned to my classroom, I thought to myself, "No, what he SHOULD have done was have the decency to return to that classroom following the break and apologize to Allen because he knew that what he had said was inappropriate."

      Later that afternoon as I prepared for a business class via ITV to Dawson County High School, I slipped a videotape into the recorder as I had promised myself and hoped I wouldn't need to use it. Yet, the very next day...another incident.

      In all of my classes I had a habit of announcing any upcoming test several days in advance. For this particular class of almost 30 students, I reminded them on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday that they would be taking a major test on Friday--today.

      As soon as I asked Mr. Mickelson, the monitor, to distribute the test, I saw Sarah, who sat in the front row directly in front of me, raise her hand. When I called on her, she explained, "I'm not taking the test today because I was absent yesterday and didn't know about it."

      "Sarah, the test was announced at the beginning of the week while you were here. You need to take it today. There will be no makeup test for you."

      "I'm NOT taking it," she bluntly stated as she glared at the test before her.

      "Sarah, you have two options--take the test or take a zero. Those are the rules."

      In an almost whisper, she mumbled under her breath, "F**k you."

      For the second time this week, I was seeing RED! As I glanced at both classrooms of students, not many seemed to have heard her, but I had--loud and clear (She was sitting directly in front of a speaker).

      "Mr. Mickelson, would you please escort Sarah to the principal's office and inform him that I will be talking with him immediately following this class." By the look on the other students' faces, I knew that they had not heard her, and for that I was so very relieved.

      I viewed and prepared the videotape for mailing before making the telephone call to the principal. He was quite apologetic for his student's behavior and assured me that he would handle the situation accordingly.

      It felt good knowing that as an outsider, I had a vast amount of support from numerous school administrations. However, I would soon learn that the more I did, the more they expected of me.

      To be continued...

      Tuesday, January 4, 2011

      Expect the Unexpected! (Part 2 of 4--All Hell Breaks Loose!)

      As I sat in the principal's office of Sidney High School, I listened intently to the plan she was proposing. The school district was asking me to teach an English night class to senior students who needed the credit to graduate. The class would be every Wednesday evening, would be three hours in length with a 15-minute break, and would be taught via ITV to Lambert High School as well. Their district would pay me my current hourly wage for class time, preparation time, and mileage. Without hesitation, I agreed.

      For some unknown reason, I had never been able to say "NO" to any new adventure; however, as I drove the 20 miles home, I questioned my decision. These were more than likely going to be difficult students who disliked English class or school or BOTH. I needed to be extremely creative to hold their attention and keep control of both classrooms. I was either a glutton for punishment or loved a challenge--I wasn't sure which.

      The first night of class proved to be somewhat interesting as I watched my students enter the classroom. Let me see--blue hair, Mohawks, two boys in the back wagging their tongues at one other (Apparently they both had just received tongue piercings.), a total of 17 boys and 1 girl. Gazing at the television monitor, I saw seven students enter the remote classroom; and I immediately discovered a pair of lovers sidling up to each other and holding hands under the table. Hmmm...that won't last long. I should explain to my readers that rather than individual desks, the ITV rooms consisted of long tables to allow speakers to be appropriately placed.

      I thought that first class went quite well considering that I knew absolutely none of these students; but as I was preparing to leave that evening, Allen (name changed to protect the innocent) approached me and inquired, "Can I talk to you?"

      "Of course. What can I do for you?"

      "I just wanted to tell you that you need to understand me 'cuz most teachers don't. I used to do drugs, but I'm trying not to do that anymore. Teachers don't understand. I just want you to know that I'm going to try to be a good kid in your class. But you need to understand 'cuz sometimes I have bad days...and nights. I just wanted to tell you that. Oh...and I get into trouble sometimes, but I'm not going to do that anymore. Okay? If you just try to understand who I am and where I'm comin' from, I'll be good for you and do all the work. Please just understand and give me a chance. Okay?"

      ...and so his rambling continued for the next 30 minutes. As I walked to the car where Terry was waiting for me, I couldn't help but wonder, "What did I get myself into this time?" Terry thought it was rather humorous, though, that a student would keep ME after class rather than vice verse.

      Much to my surprise, the class was running very smoothly until the night all hell broke loose! The class was finishing a composition assignment when Allen approached me and inquired, "Could I go on 'break' now? I'm done."

      "No, we still have a few minutes. Why don't you return to your seat and double check your work?"

      He pleaded, "I did that already. Can I please go? I even said please."

      "No, you need to wait just a few more minutes."

      As he was headed back to his assigned seat, a particularly loud comment came from the remote classroom:



      "If I was there, I'd SMACK that SMART ASS...teach HIM a lesson!"



      No words could describe what I was thinking as I looked at the television and realized that the remark had come from the teacher who was monitoring the class. Instantly Allen was throwing glares between the television screen and me, yelling, "Is he talkin' to ME? Huh? Is he talking to ME, Mrs. C. Where is that guy?" He was livid...and so was I!

      Immediately the other boys started yelling, "Yeah..he's talking to you! You going to let him get away with that? You should do something, Allen! That wasn't right...do something! Within seconds Allen was at the podium and yelling in my face...


      "Can he hear me now? Where is that guy? I want to give him a piece of my mind!! Get him back in that room! Now!"


      I was dumbfounded and slightly frightened to say the least. (Thank goodness I had the sense to turn off the speakers as soon the comment was made.) What a nightmare this was! While all of the boys were egging Allen on to do something, I somehow managed to stay calm as I responded:

      "Allen, please, please settle down. He's not in the room and wouldn't be able to hear you even if he was. It's my problem, not yours; and I'll take care of it. I promise. Please..." Now I was the one doing the pleading. Our break time couldn't come soon enough for me as I sent everyone out of the room...giving them an extra 5 minutes. They honestly deserved it that night.

      I was undoubtedly upset by the "comment" which came from that remote classroom, but what I would discover the following morning would infuriate me even more. And unfortunately, this would not be the only ITV incident before the long-needed weekend would eventually arrive.


      To be continued...

      Sunday, November 21, 2010

      Sensational Saturday!!

      Almost eleven years ago I left the Savage High School classroom to "expand my horizons," thinking that I was leaving the town I had called "home" for the past 25 years never to return. I did, however, return for a high school graduation and a wedding, but never a sporting event.

      Due to my daughter's listing on FB regarding my need to attend the upcoming state football championship game (even though she knew how much I dread the snow and cold weather), I was inundated with comments, pleas, and even bribes from friends and former students to attend the event.

      Early Saturday morning as I peered out my front window at the snow piling up and as I listened intently to the Weather Channel's winter advisory warnings through Sunday, it would have been so easy to tell TC, "The weather is too bad...let's just stay home." I have to admit that I thought about it, but not for long. How could I possibly disappoint so many people though I knew they would understand if I chose not to go?

      Despite the snow, the wind, the semi-trucks and car in the median and barrow pits along the interstate, two hours later we turned off the highway heading down Main Street in Savage. With an hour before game time, we decided to tour the town to see how much it had changed over the years. I admired the remodeled homes, the new decks and fences, the new bays added to the Fire Hall, and the new entrance to the Community Hall. I was most interested, though, in seeing how much the spindly, 12" evergreen trees I had planted two and a half decades earlier had grown. I was so awe-struck as they soared more than 20 feet high....awesome!! But when Terry turned down "Canal Street," (No, Nic, we weren't spying on you.) :) I knew it was time to head to Quale Field. :)

      After finding the perfect parking spot where I could see the entire field as well as the scoreboard, I glanced at the outside temperature gauge...12 degrees! This heated truck seat felt sooooooo good as I watched the snow continue to fall, the field being brushed off, and the onlookers bundled up so tightly that I probably couldn't recognize anyone even if I tried. Once Terry left the vehicle and Janelle, Matt, and Jackson made their appearance in the bleachers, I knew I'd be venturing out soon. Even though I told Charity I was warming up until the start of the game, the heat was just too inviting as I watched the first half of the game from our pickup, cheering "GO WARRIORS" for the team (though I'm sure no one could hear me) and honking the horn when they scored.

      After half-time, I donned a hooded sweatshirt over the one I was already wearing, added another coat and was set to brave the elements. Louie Reyna gave me the first of many, many bear hugs yesterday. Ohh...I think there was a conspiracy to see who could squeeze me the hardest, and I loved each and every one of them. My only disappointment was that I hadn't left the pickup earlier.

      Naturally, I had to have one of my "senior" moments that proved I could still be an "air-head" at times! When Nicki Fischer and some "fella" approached me, he gave me a giant hug and started chatting with me. I looked at Nicki and she said, "You don't know who this is, do you?" ..."Nope." Oh my gosh! That was my moment because I knew she married Brady, but why would she be with someone else? Brady just didn't look like Brady...he had changed so much! Then again, I hadn't seen him since he was a freshman. I'm still laughing at what an idiot I was...not even putting two and two together. Perhaps it was the cold weather that gave me that temporary brain freeze. I am so sorry, Brady. :)

      During the game and afterwards at the Hall, I had the opportunity to chat with former co-workers, parents, and so many of my former students. I loved spending those few minutes with each and every one of you...whether we talked about family, work, or school. Unfortunately, there were a few whom I never could find...next time for sure! Just like my evergreen trees, I have watched you grow from rambunctious children into beautiful young adults. I am proud to have been a part of your life and look forward to hearing from you in the future. (If you're not a member of my FB family, please take a moment to add me...the more, the merrier!)

      Regarding the football game itself, the boys, none of which I actually know, made me feel as though I was once again a proud Warrior fan. They played as a team, gave every ounce of energy they could muster in such abominable weather, and held their heads high as they accepted the second-place trophy. What more could the outstanding coaches, the proud parents, and the exuberant fans ask of their team--a team that symbolizes such astounding Warrior Pride? Nothing--you have it all!

      Because of your warmheartedness and extraordinary hugs, I will affectionately remember yesterday as my SENSATIONAL SATURDAY!

      A WARRIOR FAN!

      P.S. Amanda, you can just hold that dollar for my next trip to Savage. :)

      Friday, November 12, 2010

      To Buy or Not to Buy?

      I never watch those infomercials that dominate the late night or early morning hours of television, but I must admit that I love thumbing through those quirky catalogs I receive in the mail which try to persuade me to purchase a product that I have never even seen, let alone desire to own. Many of the items described in the magazines are well known because of their "As Seen on TV" status.

      I remember walking through the door of one of those "As Seen on TV" stores while living in Virginia and convincing myself that I could find more bargains than would fit into the trunk of my vehicle. I can't recall whether or not I even made a purchase that day; but if I did, it's now in the trash or sitting at the local charity store. Several summers ago TC did manage to grow three tomatoes from that "hanging" plant I gave him, but the strawberry plant was a total failure having produced not even a small leaf.

      Yesterday's mail brought me a "Harriet Carter" catalog which brings out both the curiosity and anger in me--curiosity because I wonder if these products actually do what the ad says and anger because I wasn't the FIRST to invent the "goodie" to make my million dollars.

      THIS WEEK'S MOST UNUSUAL BARGAINS:
      
      "Garden Torch"
      With winter on its way, this "Garden Torch" could be the ideal gift. It uses an "inexpensive" propane-filled cylinder to melt away ice on your sidewalk. My question is: "Where am I supposed to stand while melting that first patch of ice? On the ice? Doesn't that defeat the purpose, especially for a klutz like myself?"  According to the picture, that flame doesn't appear to be very big...How long is this going to take me to do my sidewalk? I'm thinking I'd probably either run out of propane or freeze my fingers before I finished, especially if I planned to do the driveway as well.

      Oh, yes, and it doubles as a weed burner--"gets down to the roots"--as long as you don't start your garden or grass on fire...or even worse--your house. All this for the low price of $39.98. Sounds like too much work for me. I'll save it for a shopper who has more ambition than I do!

      
      This is a "Purse Caddy" which allows me to keep my handbag off the floor and in full view while I'm dining out or in a public place. To me, using this device would be equivalent of telling a thief, "Here it is....come and grab it as you run by!" If I placed my purse under the table or at my feet, at least it would take the crook a moment to crawl on his hands and knees to grab it. The caddy does swivel flat for easy storage, but I wouldn't want my friends sticking this device on MY dining room table. It's a real STEAL at $5.98.



       
      THIS ONE REALLY TAKES THE CAKE!!
       

      This "Giant Cookie" cake pan set is supposed to create a 3D cake, which is no more that two cakes stacked atop each other with frosting or ice cream dividing the two halves. I love to decorate cakes, but when "I have my cake and eat it, too," I want frosting EVERYWHERE!! not just in the center!  However, if I frost the entire cake, the design would be hidden...so why would I buy this cake pan?  I can't see my grand kids wanting to dig right into this cake!



      This "Neck Air Cushion" looks like an accident about to happen!  Once you wrap it around your neck, just PUMP IT UP to stretch your tight muscles, relieving  you of sore and stiff joints, pinched nerves, headaches, and MORE! I think I'll save my $19.98 for a trip to the chiropractor.
       
       
       
       
       
      
      MY CHRISTMAS SHOPPING LIST
       
      TO JANELLE:
       
      This weather-resistant and motion-activated "Digital Security Camera" is guaranteed to instantly snap color photographs when movement is detected. It holds 200 photos and has a range of 23 feet, and it can even capture license plates! I'm not exactly sure how that works unless they drive up to your front door, but you definitely could use one of these!!
       
      TO JASON:
       
      This "Duct Tape" mug is perfect for you while you head to work every morning. You can sip from it while you let the policeman talk to the fella who ran into you; or get out the duct tape to patch the fender (Does that sound familiar?). You may consider keeping a case of it in the car for such emergencies. 
       
      If you prefer not to drink and drive, we should re-gift this to Larry Miller. I hear he is quite fond of duct tape!! 
       
      TO MY BROTHER:
       
      With no ladies in the house, he and the boys might have a good time with this "Toilet Clock" that flushes on the hour.  It is guaranteed to turn their lavatory into a "laugh-a-tory."   
       
       
       
       





      TO MY SISTER:
       
       
      This "Money Tree" is the perfect gift for her. It's 16" high with bendable branches and twist-tie ends to hold the money in place. Notice that it comes with a gift wrap bag and an attractive card. MONEY NOT INCLUDED! Oh! She will be so disappointed!  For my readers who are not familiar with my sister, check out my blog: "The Most Wicked Award" ...and it's all true.
       
       
       
      TO TERRY:
       
      Because TC has hundreds and hundreds of caps, I thought this "Cap Washer" would be the ideal gift. When he launders his caps, he hangs them all over the laundry room to try to keep their shape. Doesn't he realize it would be easier just to wear the cap and it would conform to his head? At $4.98, this gift will obviously be the most expensive on my list, but he's definitely worth it.


      Oh! and just in case he might forget where those dirty caps belong, I'm getting him this magnetic "Laundry Room Decal" with a colorful clothesline scene. This makes for a "Happy Place."  :)
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
      SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST
       
      TO MYSELF:
       
      Now that I'm retired and enjoying life more than ever, I hope never to become one of those grumpy older ladies who everyone dreads meeting on the street.  I know they say that "You're as old as you feel," but what about "You're as old as you act"?  That's who I want to be!!
       


      Being the only left-hander in the family, I want some fun facts to give my grand kids when they notice that their "Grandma Babe" writes with the wrong hand. I know the time will come!




       


      Wishing all my readers a safe, joyous holiday season!!

      Wednesday, November 10, 2010

      Expect the Unexpected! (Part 1--Equipment Galore!)

      When I chose to become a business teacher, I knew that changes in technology were inevitable, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect to find myself on camera teaching to students in another school miles from home. ITV? What's that? I've never heard of such a thing. Interactive Television Video? That's too complicated for me. After all, I was the teacher who had her students set up the VCR, the laser disc player, and other pieces of classroom equipment because plugs, cords, outlets, remote controllers, and I just did not mix well.

      The local communications company constructed an ITV classroom which would literally connect five rural schools and a community college, enabling students to take classes that were not normally available to them. As my superintendent gave me a tour of the classroom, he briefly explained the advantages of "long-distance learning," demonstrated how a teacher could teach two classrooms of students simultaneously, and then broadsided me with..."I have 'volunteered' you to teach a general business course from here to Sidney." In passing, he mentioned that the remote classroom would have a teacher "monitor" to assist me should I need any help. The entire time I am thinking to myself, "He has more faith in me than I do!"

      What was he thinking anyway! Just because I was always experimenting with new teaching techniques, it didn't mean that I truly wanted to adventure out of my own "safe" classroom world into someone else's. He further explained that I was to take a 3-day course to learn how to use each piece of equipment (Oh, brother! That proved to be interesting!). Just show me again how you did that picture in a picture--I really don't care what color of clothing I should wear to look good on camera!




      Students doing their own experimentation with the equipment.

      Now it was time to master this technological "Eighth Wonder of the World" which included four television monitors, various types of cameras, speakers, VCR's to record both classrooms as well as play instructional videos, and a fax machine to exchange paperwork and receive homework.

      Several weeks into the semester I thought that perhaps I was worrying for no reason. The class was going well, and it appeared that I had conquered my fear of the "Eighth Wonder." Even the students learned to operate the equipment as they demonstrated class projects in front of the cameras.

      I made a point to visit the remote classroom often to develop a relationship with my "new" students. As I was introducing myself to the Sidney class as "The New Kid on the Block," the superintendent stopped by to observe the class and found me performing "live" that day. I had only met him once and was glad to have him on board. That is until one of my students raised his hand and inquired, "Did you ever have Leslie McPherson as a student?" I replied, "Oh, yes, and she was such a sweet girl." He beamed with pride as he told me, "She's my mother!" (Yikes! This wasn't exactly what I had expected!) "Oh, please tell her hello for me, but you should know that I started teaching at age 10. I'm REALLY not THAT old!" As the room filled with laughter, I realized that this was going to be a fun time!


      On Halloween Anthony (a Sidney student) presented me with the little fella shown here, which the classes appropriately named "Boo." He became our class mascot and rested comfortably on an overhead camera for all to see during my next three years in the ITV world.

      Even today, he continues to be a part of my life, a fond memory from the past, as he watches over my grandchildren in the playroom.

      With this first year successfully behind me, I found myself being approached by the Sidney principal who had additional plans for me. What assumed to be an ideal situation was soon to become a teacher's WORST NIGHTMARE!

      To be continued...