Tuesday, November 30, 2010

*cough* *splutter* *gasp*

Today, I put the finishing touches on four projects due Thursday. I have one presentation to finish up. I got my test back, and it was a B. I have to tell you that I was not even upset about that. There is way too much going on right now. I'm dancing as fast as I can. I have to write a 10 page essay this weekend. Two exams by Tuesday. A friend who has just found out that he has cancer is coming in for a couple of days. I am sure this will be an emotional visit. Another friend with metatastic breast cancer finds out the results of some important tests on Friday. But next week is the final week of classes. I am strongly considering skipping the final exam for English Comp and just taking a B. I am so everlastingly tired.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Be Vewy, Vewy Qwiet...

Tim got up very early to drive to Mike's house and go hunting. Tim loves hunting. So does Mike. Is it genetic? Evidence in this house seems to point to 'yes'. Mike could not go hunting because he'd taken his doe and buck during archery season. That's what happens when you get way too good at your hobby. So he took his father out to a 'hot spot' he'd scoped out with a trail cam before the season started.

I got home from school to see Tim's truck back. Mike's truck was also in the driveway.

"That's a good sign," I thought to myself.

I got out of my car and noted that Mike's deer cart was mudded up.

"That's a good sign," I thought to myself.

I walked past Tim's truck and peeked into the bed. His tow strap was there, and it was blooded up.

"That's a good sign," I thought to myself.

I walked into the house and Tim said, in a careless way, "Grab the camera. I want to you to get a picture of my nice doe."

I looked at him. "You can't fool me," I said. "You got a buck and it's a good one. That's the exact same line you pulled on me when you got that one," and I nodded at the buck on the wall."

Mike said, in a mournful way, "Nah. It's a doe."

I said, "Nope. It's a buck."

And they both said "Doe," one more time. And I answered "a deer, a female deer, re, a drop of golden suuuuuuun..."

"That's a good sign," I thought to myself as I got the camera.



Yep. They were lying to me. Tim got a very nice buck.
Mike is a good deer guide.



The deer had a broken antler on one side, so it is not something we'll be paying to get mounted and hang on the wall. I laughed and said, "Gees, Mike, you think of everything, don't you?"

Goals

Busy, busy, busy.

One of the papers that I've been working on is my own personal goals. We had to write them up a few weeks back. Now we are looking at them once again. Have they changed?

Mine have. Interestingly enough, I'll discard most of mine. I've discovered that I am not difficult to get along with. I need to adjust my expectations of others perhaps. I also need to adjust my expectations for myself. I also need to be careful not to fall into the mothering role. I have taken the advisor's words to heart, and I've really started examining not only my classroom performance, but my life.

Know what? I have discovered that I am not the root of all trouble. I've also discovered that I am likeable. Sounds stupid, but I did not know these things about myself. Am I perfect? No. Do I have to be? No. Is anybody? No again. I've set down a lot of guilt this semester, guilt that I've been carrying around for many years. Sometimes, I sit by myself and I watch people, and I do not wonder what they are thinking when they look at me. It doesn't matter. I smile at them, and there is no fear in it, no self doubt.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Elsie

Remember that pink scarf? Elsie, the knitter, came into the store yesterday for her birdseed.

The first time she'd seen me at the register, she'd peered up at me closely and said, "Are you that Debby who writes in the paper?" I'd said, "Yes," and she said, "I love your stories. I often read them and think that I should call you. It just seems like you'd be so easy to talk to." She was lonely. I could tell. I'd told her to feel free to call me, and then promptly thought no more about it. She had though. I'd written a column about that pink scarf for the paper. The gist of it was that I thought that I'd learned a valuable lesson from cancer, about the importance of people in my life, yet as soon as I got back into the serious business of living, it happened once more: I was so busy that I didn't have time for visiting, and for phone calls. I had a stack of cards on my dining room table waiting to be filled out (hi, Jayne...) but no time to do it. I was studying and working and...well...then an elderly lady walked into the store with a scarf that she had knit thinking of me. Fringed, thinking of me. Driven to the store, thinking of me. The gift is dear to me. I was touched. I was also shamed at my own busy-ness. I vowed once more not to forget the importance of the people in my life.

Yesterday, I greeted her with a big smile. "Hi, Elsie!" and she smiled shyly. "Thank you for your article. I was so surprised." I told her that every word of it was true, that that pink scarf reminded me of something very basic, something that I seemed to have a hard time remembering. I thanked her once more for my scarf and for the gentle lesson that God had given me through her busy little hands.

We clutched each other's hands, for just a moment, and then she had to go. There were customers waiting.

Everyone needs to feel like they matter, and I went back to work vowing to do better at remembering that.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day Dreams


A couple days back, over at BB's, I left a comment about a picture of her cow, Bay Lulic and the little calf that she'd fostered. What a strange world the internet is, that I should know the name of a cow in Australia. But BB commented back: "I think I would trust you on a tractor… and I don’t think its the SLIGHTEST bit odd that you know the name of our cow. We share a set of drinking glasses, don’t we??"
We do.
These ones. I saw them in an antique store in Allentown, when I went to visit Dylan after chemo. Due to a unfortunate flare up of practicality, I hadn't bought them. By the time I was driving home, I was regretting that decision. At the beginning of the whole cancer thing, I had said, "One day, after this whole cancer crap is done, I'm coming over there to raise a glass with the women of Granite Glen." And bless their hearts, they all thought that was a great idea. When I saw those glasses in the display case, I'd automatically pictured us raising those glasses.
The story didn't end there. Cara was so outraged that she went to Allentown to spend the weekend with Dylan and track those glasses down. She did, and she brought them home.
While Cara was home for Thanksgiving, she looked through BB's Calendar. She said, "When are you guys going to Australia?" and I said, "May or June of 2012, I guess. After I graduate. Depends on the timing of the certification exam." Cara said, "Don't wait. Go now. It would be terrible if you couldn't go for some reason." She was careful. She didn't say it.
You know, I consider myself a pretty lucky person, and I am enjoying school and work and life in general. Australia waits, like some far off dream, and it is fun to think on it, make plans. I look at pictures, read stories with my chin in my hand and a smile on my face and imagine what it will be like. In fact, Thursday night, the kids got on orbitz, and we priced tickets, talking about it. It was fun to day dream, to talk about renting a car and driving around.
I guess that's the difference between the young and the old. "Go," they urged. "Go right now." I expect to get there one day, but I'm content to bide my time, making pleasant plans, dreaming dreams. It will unfold as it is meant to unfold. Those wine glasses wait too. They've been sitting on a shelf in a unused bedroom. Sometimes I go in and look at them, dust them off, hold them gently, look at them and daydream some more. Just the idea that half a world away, someone else thinks on them, and daydreams too, well, that means more to me than I can say.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

Today was the big Black Friday festivities. For anyone living outside the US, yesterday was Thanksgiving, which always falls on a Thursday. Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, and it is the traditional kick-off to the Christmas/holiday shopping. They were predicting that the credit card system would be very slow today, because they were expecting 217,000,000,000 credit card 'hits' in the United States today. Billion. 217 of 'em. Yikes. This is why I have only gone shopping on Black Friday twice in my life. I'd rather eat grasshoppers than deal with that kind of crowd. The one time that we did go, we went specifically to get a computer that was on sale. I took the kids. It was darn scary. There were so many people and all of them impatient and cross and aggressive. People yelling at each other and grabbing stuff out of each others hands. Yeah. Pass the grasshoppers, please.

Our store was set to open two hours early, at 6 AM. There are two registers, and usually, only one of them needs to be run, but because we had some great sales going on, there were two cashiers opening this morning, and we were supposed to be there at 5:30. I got there a few minutes early, and much to my surprise, there was a line outside. I went to the front of the line, and knocked to be let in. Jeremy opened up and let me in. "We're opening up early," he said, "Hurry." Yikes. I ran. The doors opened and it began.

We worked non-stop, ringing up one customer after another, two cashiers, lines stretched back to the service desk in the middle of the store. It stayed that way all day long. Credit cards transactions got slower and slower. At 9, the West Coast was starting their "Black Friday" shopping, and the credit card approval system slowed to a snail's pace. A card would need to be reprocessed a dozen times or more before it actually went through. For the most part, customers were patient. One customer told me, "I just made up my mind that today is not a day for hurrying." And so we went through the customers one after another, after another. Some customers thought that it was our store with the problem. "No," I explained. "It's the national system. Everything was fine until California woke up and started shopping. Somebody want to call California and tell them to go back to bed?" I also tried to remind them of the season. "George Bailey said 'every time that you pay in cash, an angel gets his wings.'" One woman looked at me, with a wrinked brow. "George Bailey said that every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings." I grinned at her, and said, "Trust me. It's when you pay in cash," and the woman said, "Noooo," and her acquaintance said, "She's being funny. The credit card machine is not working..."and the woman looked at me and said, "Oh. I gotcha now." And everyone laughed. So we laughed our way through the day, and it was okay. It went by very quickly.

We had a few grumpy butts (really, I think that I could have counted them on one hand) but like I said, most of the customers were good natured and patient, laughing and joking in line. Carts were in short supply, but customers shared, even going out of their way to help other customers. I liked that. Our customers really are the salt of the earth, and even on Black Friday, I was happy to be working at Tractor Supply.

Thanksgiving and Waterworks and Black Friday

It was a nice Thanksgiving. It was small, but it was okay, because I honestly think that it was my worst Thanksgiving dinner yet. I just didn't have enough time to do great things. Plus I tried a new stuffing recipe, which I didn't care for all that much. The pies were good. Meh.

Anyhow, not everyone was home, and although I was glad for the faces round the table, I was also missing the ones that weren't. At one point, Cara walked in on me and said, "Oh, gees. DYLAN! Code Waterworks! Code Waterworks in the kitchen!" They're a pair, the two of them.

We all watched Toy Story 3, which made them laugh and snort and call one more Code Waterworks. The boogers. It's just hard not to think of Winnie the Pooh..."No matter where he goes, somewhere there will be a boy and his bear playing in the 100 acre wood." I cry everytime I read that, but it's still nice to think that those children are still there, somewhere, in those adults who keep calling 'Code Waterworks!'

I also whipped Dylan in Scrabble.

It's 4:34 right now. I've got to get ready for work. Black Friday has officially arrived. I'll betcha some stories come out of today's adventure!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This and That and Happy Thanksgiving!

Last night, I went to bed late, because I stayed up to study for that test after I got home from freight night at the store. I was wicked tired, but I stayed up to refresh the information in my mind. I went to bed late, and then I was awakened early by the unusual thunder and lightning storm. I went in to class early, to give myself a little more time to 'brush up' on the information. "Grades aren't everything," the teacher had said, and I've been trying to take her words seriously. This morning, I was not nervous. I was just tired. That's all. She handed out the test, and I began to carefully mark my answers in. I did not look ahead, nervously trying to gauge the difficulty of the test. I just took it. One question at a time. I did well. Not spectacularly, I suppose. I'm not sure that it was an A, but I did well. When it was done, I did not go over it and over it. I took a cursory glance but then I handed it in, and I left the class room. Grades aren't everything. I went by myself to the cafeteria and celebrated with an 'everything' bagel and a tea, and sat by myself people watching and enjoying just sitting.

We had a brief class after the test, from 10:30 until 12:00, and then I went into the computer lab to work on a paper.

I met Procrastination Girl. She needed my assistance. I was encouraging, but I did not fall into the trap of being over helpful. She looked at me helplessly, and I said to myself, "She is a peer, not my child. She is a peer, not a client," and I told her that she was on the right track. Then I sat down and began putting a paper together on the tensions in Korea. Cara is my child, not my peer, so I am allowed to wish that she wasn't going to Daegu for the spring semester.

I was dragging, but I wrote my paper, and then I messed around on line. I thought of Kelly, who's lately described herself as feeling blue. I sent her a 'Booyah!' text, and she hied herself to her computer and we had a nice chat as I waited for that class to start. I had so much to do at home. Dylan and Cara will be home tomorrow. I needed to clean. I needed to start cooking for Thanksgiving. But being responsible, I had that last class.

Long and the short of it? We filed into class, and our professor walked by looking confused. Last week, she'd given us this class off, some free time to work on our papers. Problem was none of us remembered her saying it. We all looked at each other in amazement, handed in our papers and filed out of the classroom. I could have left at noon had I only known!

I got home an hour early. I got a lot of housework done, and it felt good. I spoke to a friend on the phone who's just discovered that he has cancer, making plans to meet. Tim and I went shopping tonight and got groceries. I have tomorrow to make pies, to bake bread, and to putz around the house. I am so looking forward to this. Tomorrow night, the kids come in. It's going to be small, just four of us, but it will be fun.

Funny story? I heard on the radio today that the smell of pumpkin pie is a powerful aphrodisiac for men. That surely puts a different spin on the story of the young man and the pumpkin pie candles, doesn't it?

Another funny story? Remember Merrill the chicken? I saw his "mother" the other day, and we greeted each other. She looked tired too. Turns out that Merrill has learned to crow, and does so very early in the morning. She smiled ruefully. I imagine that Merrill is on his way to becoming an outdoor chicken like most other chickens. However this story goes, I hope that he gets to take his stuffed chicken with him, and that he has a night light at night. Mostly, I hope that he gets to listen to books on tape once in a while, sitting on his stuffed chicken, making little 'chuck-chuck' noises as he turns his head this way and that, listening to the story unfold.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you here in the US. The rest of you? What the heck. Give thanks anyway.

Ain't It Funny

"I woke up this morning to the sound of thunder. How far off, I sat and wondered..."

Yeah. Okay. I did not even sit up in bed. I just laid there half awake, stupid with my tiredness and thinking "Mighty peculiar weather we're having for this time of the year." It is, too. We've had snow, but no more than a dusting. To have a thunder storm at the end of November? That is peculiar.

"...started humming a song from 1962..."

I remembered on morning when I was just wee, and we lived in Fredonia New York, and I was eating my breakfast at the little formica table, white with gold sparkles. I was getting ready for school, and the radio was playing "She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah..." and it was pouring. The thunder and lightning outside scared me and I was crying because I was afraid to walk to Wheelock Elementary school in the thunder and lightning.

Somehow that child has become a middle aged woman. Quit laughing... That's what they tell us in 'Life Span' class. I'm middle aged. Imagine the joy of sitting in that class surrounded by young whippersnappers as the teacher talks about menopause and hot flashes. Most of the kids carefully don't look at me. That is the most aggravating class. I cannot, to save my soul, make higher than a B on her tests. Have you ever taken a test and then got it back, and begin to go over your questions, and find that the question has shapechanged? That one word leaps forward that did not leap forward on test day, and suddenly the whole question reads differently? Gah! Frustrating. I got an 82 on the last one, and it was my lowest score yet. I walked out of the classroom trying to figure out how I could do this differently. I go back several times and re-read the test before handing it in. It doesn't seem to help. "Do you have trouble with her tests?" I asked another student. She looked over. "These are the trickiest tests!" So it's not just me. 1/3 of the class got an A or a B. 1/3 of the class got a C and 1/3 of the class got a D or an F.

So this morning, I laid in bed listening to the thunder and lightning half awake, a middle aged woman. I looked over to the clock, and thought, 'in just an hour, I'll have to get ready for school'.

"Ain't it funny how the night moves?"

Monday, November 22, 2010

Where I Wasn't

Interestingly enough, someone said to me, "I saw you up on the hill."

'The hill' is a euphemism. It's where my family is from. I looked at the person curiously. "No. It wasn't me." I haven't been up there since I did mosquito work for the county and that is more than a year ago. I know where I don't belong, and I stay away. It's a remote road and it's really not an issue. I don't have any reason to be on it.

"Really?" The person wrinkled his brow. "I could have sworn that it was your car."

I answered again, "No. It was not me."

He answered, "Huh," and explained to me that this car looked just like my car.

I answered once again, "No. It was definately not our car."

It's interesting. I know where this has come from. I know what prompted his questioning. I should have asked when 'he' was supposed to have seen me so that I could have told him where I actually was. But when you make a decision not to fight with a family, the truly freeing thing is that you no longer feel as if you have to make excuses or to offer up alibis.

I went back to my business, knowing, once more, after all these years, that my choice was the right one. While there's freedom in it, there's sadness too, but you know, it is what it is and it's still my fault even when I'm no where around.

Dream Interpretation

It will be nice to have my five day weekend from school. Last week was pretty tumultuous, and between school, schoolwork, work and housework, I was drowning. When I went to bed, I slept hard, not waking up if Tim got up to feed the fire. I could not rouse myself when there were two bears treed in the back yard. Tim came up with regular 'live-from-the-scene' reports and I moaned into my pillow, "that dog will never stop barking if those bears don't come down!" and "I'm tiiiiiiired," and eventually my husband shot the one in the cherry tree with the BB gun, and he came flying out of the tree and, seeing him moving out, the other scrambled down and took off right behind him. Fine by me. The dog got bored at all the quiet, and went home. By the time that Tim got in the house and checked the fire, and came back to bed, I was sound asleep once again and never even heard him.

So I've been working hard, and sleeping hard and not a lot of anything else. I don't have time to read the newspaper any more. I've finally given in and have my laundry sitting in the living room. That way I can stop and fold laundry for ten minutes, and then go back to work. Doing the big tasks in short bursts is the only way for me to get things done any more. I just don't have a lot of time to spend in one place. (Unfortunately for you folks, I am a very fast typist...)

In any case, after the latest drama in the world of group projects, after all the agonizing and feeling terrible, after seeing my advisor, after digesting her sensible advice, after going to work, and then working intensely on one of my projects, I went to bed and I dreamed a dream.

"Last night I dreamed I went to Manderly again."

Okay. No. I didn't.

I dreamed that I was making a dish for a pot luck supper, and I drove to someone's house in a terrible storm. When I arrived, the hostess did not have her part of the meal made, and so I stood at the window watching the storm as she rushed around the kitchen. The trees were being whipped about in the wind. One closest to the window bent more and more, so close that I could hear the tree actually creaking as it was bent in the storm. I thought to myself, "If that tree breaks, it will come right through this window," but I stood there and watched it, curious at what would happen next. And then I woke up.

Boy. If only I could figure out what that meant.

The potluck supper = group project.

The unprepared hostess = my class mate.

It made me laugh a little, the transparency of this dream, and I fell back asleep once again, pondering on the fact that although the tree outside the window bent and creaked, she did not snap and break.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Figuring It Out

I got very discouraged earlier in the week. Two team projects, two problems with team dynamics, and I find myself wondering if what I've been told all my life is true: am I impossible to get along with? Is it me?

I had so much on my plate, and I feel like crap. I've got a unit test on Tuesday. Although I thought I was done with writing essays, I'm not. I've got an 8-10 pager, another argument. I'm juggling the job, which is still a wonderful break from school for me (how odd that a job should be that...a place to relax, to enjoy myself. But it IS). I'm trying very hard to get as much school work done as possible before the kids come home for Thanksgiving. I want to be able to enjoy that day, but each time that I feel as if I am making progress, a new project is added to the pile.

This week, after the awkwardness with Procrastination Girl, I hit a new low. It just occurred to me that if it is true that I'm an awful person, well, I might just as well forget about college, because I'd never be able to function in a team. I tossed and turned Wednesday night, and finally I made up my mind to go speak with my advisor. I didn't know even how to begin, and much to my surprise, I got choked up. Teary eyed. I tried to explain why I was there, and I cried.
I tried to explain how awful I felt about this latest thing, even though I know, for a fact, that I had every right to be aggravated, even though I know for a fact that I behaved professionally and did not get emotional. Still though, still, there was a scene that had people turning to watch the drama unfold, and I was ashamed.

The teacher is good. She pointed out one thing that I had not seen. At one point, I said, "I don't want to be telling her, nagging her, reminding her, what she needs to do. I'm not her mother." And even as I said it, something clicked. The teacher said, "But you took her on because you felt sorry for her. You began to mentor her. You began to make decisions designed to make her comfortable, to put her at ease, to make her feel better. You began to nurture her..." and I finished the sentence. "Just like a mother would." And the teacher smiled.

I guess that's an important thing to know about myself. That I am always going to have a tendency to take care of others. That might be alright for my clients, but it is not an appropriate way to interact with my peers.

The teacher also pointed out that I was a strong student with a lot of life experiences. She said that no one could make me feel guilty unless I let them. She also commented that really, I might want to consider cutting myself some slack on the grades, that a 'B' was above average. All those things I knew, I guess. It's just good to hear them from another person.

"Listen," I said before I left. "If you ever see me interacting with others in a way that I might want to reconsider, please shoot me an e-mail or pull me aside. She said, "That's good to know. I'd have done it anyway, but it's good to know that you're open to that."

I walked to my car in the cold, and I thought about things. I felt better. She told me that I was a survivor, and I was a survivor because I had no other choice than to be one. That's true too, I suppose, although, really, I'd given her a very small view of my life. She didn't feel that it was me, although she did bring up a couple things that I might try to do differently. I felt better.

When I got home, I got down to work. In the past two days, I've gotten three projects nearly done. Tomorrow, I will work on our written report, and our presentation. I'm feeling productive again. I'm hopeful.

Friday, November 19, 2010

For Emma, for her mother, and for Mrs. Spit, too.

Mrs. Spit is a very wise woman who has suffered great loss in her life, but somehow has managed to come through these times with her faith intact. She lost her own child through pre-eclampsia, her little boy Gabriel. Now she is reliving that horror long distance. Her niece is giving birth to her little girl Emma. Emma is 7 weeks early. Please pray for Emma. For her mother, and for the grief that has, once again, torn open the heart of my dear friend, Mrs. Spit.

A Moment in a Classroom

Tuesday was a long day for me. Very long. I'd worked hard the night before, and we stayed late. I did not get to bed until after midnight. Tim's alarm goes off at 4:50. So I was dragging before I even got to my first class, which begins at 9. By the time that I was headed for my last class, I was seriously dragging butt. I got to the classroom, but the last class was still in the process of departing, but I was so darned exhausted that I simply went in and took my seat at the back of the class anyway.

There was a woman up front speaking to the teacher. I was not eavesdropping. She was speaking loudly enough to plainly be heard.

She walked up to the teacher and said, "I'm sorry that I was not here for the last class."

The teacher said, "That's okay. Do you need the assignment?"

"No," the woman said. But she stood there. Waiting. The teacher was confused, and so was I.

"I had a breast biopsy," the woman said.

The teacher said, "I'm sorry to hear that. I hope that everything's okay."

The woman replied, very disgustedly, "Well, it's not. It's malignant."

The teacher looked shocked and fumbled around for the words. I mean, teachers just don't ask a lot of personal questions about health because of laws and HIPAA privacy and all of that.

This woman though, she volunteered everything. She explained that this was the third time that she had cancer. "I should be dead!" she said, over and over again. Her tragic story went on for some time. "I should be dead!" and she did quite a bit of swearing at cancer. The teacher just listened mostly, and made comforting noises, but I could tell that the woman was expecting more. She wanted a drama. She wanted someone to be shocked with her, and to swear at cancer with her. She wanted to hear that she was a miracle, because she should be dead.

From the back of the classroom, I sat there with my aching bones. I felt like I should speak up, but I felt way too tired for a lot of emoting, and so I felt that this woman would only be disappointed in my response.

"I should be dead." I wondered tiredly if she actually believed that. If she was supposed to be dead, she would be so. It seemed to me that she should be proclaiming "I'm supposed to be alive! I'm supposed to be alive!" She should be feeling that God had a plan and a direction for her life, that she was meant to accomplish something.

At some point, another woman from that class, a young girl really, began to make sympathetic noises and the woman turned from the teacher and began directing her comments in that direction. They walked out of the room together, the woman still swearing about cancer. "I don't know," she said, in a hopeless sort of way. "Three times. I should be dead...."

Although that kind of drama 'turns me off', each and every time that I hear it, I understood what was at the root of it. Beneath all that bluster, beneath that heavy makeup and that showy exterior, beneath all of that, there was a tiny voice, and it was saying, "I cannot believe this is happening again," and "I'm afraid." I understood that small voice much better than I understood the one that everyone else was hearing.

A Face in The Crowd

I've been very busy with this project and that project, but today I took the time to drop some ribbons off at the Cancer Center, to decorate a Christmas tree. I donated teal ribbons in honor of WhiteStone and Linda (ovarian cancer). I donated pink ribbons in honor of Mary, and Bev, and Barb aka 'Anonymous' and Leslie and her mother, too. (breast cancer). I donated white ribbon in memory of my father (lung cancer). When I walked into the room, everyone was happy to see me, but I could not stay. I had homework. Looking around, I saw that there were new faces. It struck me again. My. There are such a lot of us.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

You Got Some 'splaining to do, Oz.

I'm feeling better this morning. Yesterday was not a fun day, and the truth of it was that I didn't even get any research done. I was just mad. I didn't have a question formulated. Erg.

The girl sent me an e-mail last night. The e-mail apologizes profusely and explains that she is not a person who can simply jump into a project with both feet, like I do. She needs someone to discuss things with and to meet again and again and again. Reading between the lines, I now understand that she's telling me that she needs constant direction and urging to stay on task. "I just don't want you to hate me any more than you do," she had written. That one sentence shows her immaturity. That's how little kids talk. (She's 28) I e-mailed her back to say that I didn't hate her, but my frustration was warranted.

The fellow who's working with Young Girl, my headache from the last project, walked past me at the computer lab a few days back. He said, "Boy. I'm telling you, I will never work with 'Young Girl' again." He looked harried and frustrated.

"Having problems?" I asked.

"We can't make any progress. She gets an idea on how something should be done, and she won't change it. The teacher even told her not to do it that way, that she is not an expert in the field, and that she doesn't have the skill required to do the project that way, but she just smiles and does it anyway. She threw away all of my work, and started over from scratch. She won't compromise." He's having a hard time. He might have to drop out of school for a year. That's a shame, because really, he's a smart young man.

I said, "Well, you can't tell her no, that's a fact."

He repeated, "I will never work with her again."

So, I'm not the only one having problems. I guess that it's lucky that I only have to deal with Cannot-work-without-Constant-Supervision-Girl. At least she doesn't argue.

Anyway. I came home, and I wrote my little angry post. Vented my spleen, and BB replied in her very Oz way, "Well wouldn't THAT tear the fork right out of your nightie?!!" Made me laugh.

Made Scotty laugh too. He hadn't heard that expression in years, he said. I hadn't heard it at all, so he was one up on me...but he's from Oz too.

Novel Woman commented that it was obvious WHY I was so aggravated. I'd been apparently walking around with a fork in my nightie which was bound to aggravate anyone. She chided me for leaving that important detail out.

Which leads us quite nicely to the final questions here. What the heck does that mean, anyway? Which of you Oz people will step forward to explain it to the rest of us?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Deja Vu All Over Again

I'm currently in the middle of another group project. We were told at the beginning of it that we could work alone, if we wished, and after the traumatic last group experience, I'd made up my mind to do just that. However, there was another girl, a shy girl, very awkward, sits at the back of the class. She didn't have a partner. The teachers asked if she were working alone, and she looked at them, awkwardly. "I don't know," she said. "I guess. I don't have a partner." I really respect this girl because she is a very nervous person, and you can tell that speaking up is hard for her. However, because class participation is a big deal, she forces herself to speak, and I always feel a little proud of her. I mean, she's overcoming a big obstacle and I remember when I used to be ashamed to speak, so I respect her struggle to overcome this. On the spur of the moment, I spoke up and said, "We can work together, if you like." She agreed readily, and our teachers marked us as a team.

We did our facility visit, and we watched OT in action. Next was to write our report, to talk about the therapies we'd seen, the frames of reference, the domains of concern. We also had to sit down and come up with a research question, and then research it, and address it in our report, citing references (at least three). We had a question. We did our research. I began working on our report. R. expressed some reservations about our question. She wanted to change it. "That's fine," I said, because really, her point was valid. "How about this? I'll finish up this report, and you go to the library and pull together some research on the new question, then I'll come over and meet you, and we'll cover the question, I'll take that stuff home and finish up the report. "Great," she agreed happily, and off she went.

I was a bit relieved at her willingness to take responsibility, because she'd scared me just a little. She selected our site. I'd let her because she's nervous, and I wanted her to be comfortable. It was in her hometown, a 45 minute drive from my house and the college, but I felt that it was important for her to be comfortable. I thought her familiarity with the place would make her less nervous. After choosing the facility, she said, "I'll call and set it up tonight." But she didn't. Not for several days, and I had to keep nudging her to do that, even volunteering to do it myself "No, no, I'll do it tonight when I get home," she said. And finally, she did. We made the visit, and I'd begun to assemble the report, and still, there was no imput from her. I was doing the work, and she was not contributing, and I began to be nervous again. But she'd gone off to the library, and so I did the report, everything but the research question, her portion, and when I was done, I took a copy of it to the library. She was sitting with another student, and they were working on homework for another class, but I gave her the report. We agreed that we would meet Wednesday, and finish it. I said, "You'll have the research for the question then, right?" "Oh, yes," she said. "I'll have the research, and we'll talk about it, and get the report finished." "Great!" I said, and I left for my next class. I was tired and weary, but felt good about our progress. We have five projects due on the same day, and I'm feeling pretty stressed.

Long story short. Yesterday, she said, "We're meeting tomorrow, right?" and I said, "Yes. We'll discuss that research question, and we'll get the report finished." And she said, "What you've got done so far is awesome," and she left.

I studied for my test. I got up early and went to school early to study some more. I took the test, and then went down to the library to meet my partner to finish up that report. And she was waiting for me. "You've done a great job so far," she said, and she was enthusiastic about how the project was going. I said, "Thanks. Let's discuss the research question, and how we're putting that in." And she said, "Well, I was going to work on it, but I decided, no, that's not fair. Debby needs to be able to be involved." She gave me a generous smile.

Inside, I died a little. Very carefully I said, "We had agreed that you'd finish the question and pull the research together. We were going to write it today." She looked at me and said nothing. I said, "Okay. Let's get going on the research question," and she handed me the paper. I took a deep breath, and I headed for a computer. I was trying to tell myself that initially, I'd decided to work on the project alone anyway so I shouldn't be upset to be doing just that. But I found it hard not to be irked, especially since she kept looking at me angrily. I finally said, "Listen, I'll do the research question and the research. Let me go home where I have a copier." And she said, disgustedly, "No, just give it to me, and I will do it." "No," I said. "I'll do it. Don't worry about it," and she leapt to her feet grabbing her things snapping, "You're making me feel like crap!" I couldn't believe this was happening again. Group projects SUCK! I explained to her that I'd worked hard on my portion of the report. I pointed out that she'd willingly taken on a portion of the report, which only seemed fair, anyway. I reminded her that she'd made a commitment that she hadn't kept. She snapped, "I'm under a lot of stress." I looked at her. "So am I." She headed for the door. I gathered my things and headed to the other exit. I just wanted to cry.

As I stepped outside, I heard her calling me.

I turned around, and said "You know, I tried so hard not to be angry with you. We talked about this, right from the beginning, that we both needed to hold up our end of the bargain. You told me Thursday that you were going to the library to do the research question while I wrote the report. I worked hard on that report, and when I came over to give you the preliminary copy of it, you were visiting with another student and working another homework assignment. We talked about it then. You would do it, you said. We talked about it Tuesday. You were doing it. You promised, and you didn't, and then you blow up at me because I'm unhappy that you didn't do as you said. That's not fair." We stood there in the rain staring at each other.

"You're right," she finally said. "It's not fair."

"I'm under stress too. I've got a lot going on," I said. "Now I'm doing your part of it in addition to my own."

"I know," she said, but I also noted that she did not offer to do the work.

What else was there to say? I'd verbalized my concerns, for all the good that it did me. I was proud of my own conduct. I did not get emotional. I stated my case. I can't make her do it. Nothing to do but drive home and do some research.

Yep. My conduct was professional and clear with her. Let me be unprofessional and clear with you fine folks. I'm really pissed right now.

Reassurance.

I was so tired this morning. I got myself to school. I had to drive the Mustang. It made me nervous because it's been a while since I drove a standard. I forgot a book. I have a test tomorrow. I'm feeling harried and worried. I was headed to the registrar's office, and I saw my friend in her office, talking. I smiled, but kept on going. She looked busy. I didn't want to interrupt.

Behind me, I heard "Debby!" and I stopped and turned around. Rachel told me how much she enjoys reading my blog, and that she's got another woman in her office following my merry adventures. "Thanks," I said. "How's it going?" she asked. And I told her, honestly, that I was feeling nervous and tired and worried and harried, as if I was barely keeping up, and she said, "Well, all students feel like that at this point. Everyone feels the pressure." She smiled her very nice smile in a very reassuring way, and pointed out that there were just a couple more weeks of class, not counting Thanksgiving break, and finals week.

I went on my way, but this time, instead of walking along in my own little 'Joe Btfsplk' world (L'il Abner was a great cartoon, wasn't it?), this time, I walked looking around me, at other students. Rachel was right. Little snippets of conversation, worried expressions, no computers open in the library or the computer lab...yep. Everyone is feeling the pressure. It is not just me.

I got that horrible essay that had me ripping my hair out. I got an A. I have the final exam essay to write, and then that class is done. It's not that the class is awful. Or hard. It's just so much writing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Saying it Out Loud.

I worked yesterday, and it was freight day. We got two trucks in, building up stock for our Christmas 'rush'. We all worked like crazy, and we stopped for supper, eating together instead of one or two at a time. We shared stories. I told how it came to pass that I was 'thrown out' (in the very nicest way) of a Wegman's supermarket. I had five children with me. I was there to buy specifically some sales items. The juiceboxes were on sale, the pallet was empty. There was another pallet 'top stocked' on the huge wire rack above the shelf. So a young man in a store vest was walking by. I said, "Could you call somebody to get that pallet of juiceboxes down. I wanted to get a case of them while they were on sale." And the young punk said, "Well, if you can't reach them, I guess they're not on sale," and grinned big and kept on walking. I hesitated only a moment before scaling the shelves and helping myself to a case of juiceboxes. Store vests came from all directions. I could see them from my 'eye in the sky'. I climbed back down, was escorted through the store as I looked up my kids (who had fled in embarrassment save for one lone nephew who loyally stood by). I picked up a few more items, and gathered my chicks, and then, still escorted by the manager, who was very friendly (and also got the name of the young boy who'd been so flip) I headed for the register, where the manager said, in a jolly way, "Well, why don't I give you those juiceboxes. And we're going to give you your bag of dog food too..." and one of the nephews said, "Gees, Aunt Debby, if you'd have fallen and broken your neck, they'd have given you the whole store." (that comment got us a pot roast). We were then escorted to the door where the manager stood smiling and waving (and probably praying to God that he never saw the likes of us again). And as I told my story, people laughed, because I'm not the sort that you expect to be pulling stunts like that. Jeremy told the story about how he was coming on to the store floor, and a small child leapt out, screaming and making horrible faces. "Scared the crap out of me," he admitted. They both stood there staring at each other in shock. And the little girl looked up at him and said, "I thought you were my sister." And we laughed some more. By the time that meal was done, we all were wiping our eyes. That was fun.

Today, Alan came into the store. He walked up to me and said, "Ma'am, I have a question about your cracked corn back there?" and I said, "Yes sir..." and he said, "Did Jimmy crack it and does he truly care about his product?" and I said, "I cannot speak for Jimmy, but me, personally? I truly could not care less." And we laughed at each other. He's truly one of the nicest people ever. He is always himself, no matter what. His nature is unchanging. He is quiet and wise and funny. I also know that he is having hard times in his life, but he still moves in this world, quietly, wisely, and good naturedly. I respect that. I gave him a hug as we parted. "Alan," I said, "if I never said this before, I want to say it to you now. I'm truly glad to know that there are people like you in this world. Truly glad." He looked surprised to hear it, but glad too. As if it never occurred to him that he was extraordinary before.

As I worked on, opening boxes and getting stuff on the shelf, I made up my mind. I don't have a lot of time right now. I'm busier than a one armed paperhanger. But I will make sure that my friends know that they are special to me. That simple thing makes a difference.

So.

You all, out there? Thank you. Thank you for reading and commenting or even not commenting, but thinking nice thoughts. Thank you all. I appreciate it more than I can say. You're great!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Friends

In the midst of all my busy-ness, in the midst of my struggles to keep my nose above water, I am surrounded by people who love me. What do they get from me? I've got this pile of cards on my table that I keep meaning to sit down and get written up. It has not yet been done. I wake up in the night and think on them, and pray for them as I wait to fall back asleep. I don't bother to call then, because I know for a fact that even my bestest, bestest friend will not be glad to hear from me at that hour. It is a wonderful thing to know, though, that when things slow down, when I get a minute to catch my breath, these friends will be there still, and when I call, they will answer the phone and they will be glad that it's me. I am not loved as I deserve to be loved. I am loved better than that.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tractor Supply

Today, at Tractor Supply, a woman came in. She was one of the guest columnists selected in my group something like four years ago now. In a careless voice, she said, "So do you still write for the paper?" I told her that yes, I did. And she said, in a bored manner, "I just didn't have any more stories. Don't you run out of things to write about?" I rang up her things. "No. We're surrounded by stories. My problem is figuring out what NOT to write about." And she looked at me as if I was a fool. It made me laugh, that a writer could run out of things to write about.

Today, I met a woman who looked familiar to me. She hailed me by name, but a lot of people know my name, so I thought nothing of it, but heck, not knowing someone has never been a reason not to talk, so I chatted away as I packed her things. She looked at me. "You don't know who I am, do you?" and I admitted that while she looked familiar, I could not place her. It was a woman that I had worked with in 1976. We were both key punch operators. (Trivia? Who can tell me what a key punch operator does?) In addition to the intervening years, there was also the fact that she'd lost 130 pounds since then. It was wonderful to see her again, and I wished we would have had longer to talk.

It was a busy day today, and one of my favorite customers came in. He's a very grumpy old fellow, and he always comes in and gives me a punch in the arm, and says something in a rough tone of voice. I always look over at him, and say something to the effect of "Don't you come in here and start any of your mess. I ain't skeerd of you, pal." That just tickles him, although he just knits his eyebrows together and he says something mean right back. Today, he bought a ton of pellets, and he grumbled and snarled while he filled out his check, and I listened placidly and said something witty and snotty right back at him whenever I had a chance. And he left and headed out the door as I called for a forktruck to meet him outside to load his truck. He'd only been out the door a couple of minutes when I noticed that he'd left his checkbook behind. The manager happened to be walking by, so I said, "Hey, Mark, you know that cranky old fellow that just headed out? You want to give him his checkbook?" and Mark headed out the door. It was a busy day today, and I was working away when I felt that familiar punch in my arm. I looked up and Mr. N growled, "You're the only reason I come in this darn place," and I said, "Well, if management hears about that, they'll fire me for sure," and he laughed and headed back out the door.

The 4H was there, a local group that works with kids, teaching them about animals and farming and hard work, and the like. Since we are a farm store, we support them. They had a bakesale, and sold hot dogs, and sold dollar chances on some merchandise that we'd donated. They brought in a little goat, and a calf and two turkeys, and they caused quite a little stir at the front of the store. Later, one of the adults came in and said, "What's your last name?" I told him, and turns out that Tim had won a prize. The big one. Never mind the fact that he's not supposed to buy chances on merchandise that the store donated. I had no clue that he'd even done it. Ooopsy. Now he knows.

Going to hit the hay early tonight. Last night the neighbor dog was taking a fit in our yard. He'd managed to tree two bears. One in a cherry tree by our shed, and another down in the woods. Big bears too, and both of them too afraid of the dog to come out of their trees. Tim shot one in the butt with a bb gun (I'm sure it stung, and nothing more.) He scampered down out of the tree and took off, and the other bear followed, and we were finally able to get some sleep. Hopefully tonight's a bit quieter.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Today at Tractor Supply

Today at Tractor Supply, towards the end of the night, a woman came rushing in to buy a bag of kitten food. Her eyes were red rimmed, like she'd been crying, hard. Turns out her sister had gotten her a new kitten. She was not sure about this. She just had her previous cat euthanized three days ago, and, as she phrased it, "I haven't finished crying myself sick about that." But the kitten was so cute that she'd found herself going along with the plan even though she really didn't want to. "I still have an unopened bag of catfood at home, and all his things..." and wouldn't you know, her eyes teared up once again. Being that I'm a sympathetic crier, well, my eyes teared right up along with her. Turns out she was feeling very guilty. Her previous cat was a stray that she'd taken in. He was a wiley, street wise cat, a hunter. But he loved her, and was, in her words, almost like a dog...he loved car rides and slept with her, curled up against the side of her face. Her big decision with him was whether to allow him outside. She'd tried to keep make an indoor cat of him, but he was miserable. So she gave in. He was an indoor/outdoor cat, and he'd gotten hit by a car. She was feeling quite guilt stricken about all of this, and the guilt made her feel even worse about this new kitten. "I don't know what to do," she said. "William liked the outdoors so much. I don't want this kitten to be outdoors." She snuffled again. "I've got kind of a philosphy about that," I said, "and it is not a popular one. I believe that animals have their own instincts and their own natures. If that cat wants to go out, I think that it should be allowed to do so. Get it vaccinated, and take care of it, but really, I don't see anything wrong with an indoor/outdoor cat." She looked at me. "I felt so badly about William. I felt like it was my fault." "No," I said. "It wasn't your fault. William was his own cat." And she cried at that, to think that it might not have been her fault after all. "You gave him a home," I said. "He was a stray cat, and you gave him a home. And now you'll be giving this kitten a good home. Maybe he'll be content to be an inside cat." And with a little start, she gasped, "Oh, he's in the car. I've got to get out there. He'll be afraid." She grabbed her cat food and headed for the door. "Come back and let me know how this story works out," I called after her. "I will," she said. "I still have to name him." I suggested that she watch him for a while, and she'd figure out his name. She thought maybe that was right. And out the door she went.

Remember the young man who bought the pumpkin pie candle? He was back in tonight. He had spent the day putting brakes on a trailer, and he was tired and dirty and about done in. He picked up a few more supplies for that, and two more vanilla pumpkin candles. It made me smile, and I wrapped them separately so that they would not get damaged by the other items in the bag.

I had three days in a row that I did not work. You know what? I missed it. I enjoy that job and the people that I meet very much.

New Thought

Thursdays are my 'long days' at school. Class starts at 9. My last class finishes at 3:50. Yesterday, by the end of the day, I was dragging. In fact the instructor for our lively English Comp class had us watch a video, Blackadder, about WWI soldiers. Embarrassingly, I found myself nodding off during it, even though it was a good video.

I seem to be losing steam, and that bothers me. It's a struggle to keep up. It's not just me, I know that. Yesterday, walking out of English, trying to rouse myself for the drive home, Vanessa and I talked. She's doing well in class, but she's struggling too. She said, "Do you ever find yourself looking around the class and wondering who will not be coming back at the end of the semester?"

I hadn't. I know that some people are struggling, but I didn't realize that any of us were struggling to that degree. It made me feel a little babyish, to be disappointed with an 86 on that midterm, to be fighting my own perfectionism with every paper I turn in. There are people struggling with worse grades, and yet they keep on trying. They show up to class every day and they keep on working away at it. They will go down trying. That's real heart, there.

I am hopeful that Vanessa is wrong. We have an awfully nice class. I'd hate to lose any of them.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

There's Going to be an Evolution...

It will be a blessing to hand in that essay today. I'm so glad to be done with it. My problem is that I'm used to sitting down and hammering out a project is a day. This project was big enough, I had so much other stuff going on, that I got only half of it written. I'm so self critical that every time that I came back to it, I'd wind up doing a massive rewrite of what I'd already written. I finally decided that I could no longer do that. I took a deep breath, opened the document Monday afternoon, scrolled to the end of it, and began writing. I spent an entire afternoon on it, and was bleary eyed at the end of it. But it was done. I re-read it last night, and I was not satisfied with it. I resisted the urge to begin re-writing, though. Last night, I created the title page, I numbered the pages, and I printed it off. 'It is what it is,' I thought. It's the first time that I've applied that phrase to school, but I've got too many projects going on to be a perfectionist. In fact, being a perfectionist at this point of the game will actually hurt me, not help me.

In an e-mail, 'Manda commented that she was enjoying watching me evolve. That was an interesting thought. Me? Evolving? Really? I guess that I hadn't really noticed that. I suppose that it is hard to see that 'from the inside looking out.' I see the insecurities and the self doubt and the fears, and not much beyond that. But I've been thinking on her words a lot. Last night, when, with a sigh, I hit 'ctrl' and 'p' and that essay began to print, I said, resolutely, 'It is what it is,' and I realized that my friend was right. I'm at a new place. I guess it is right to say that I have evolved.

Once Tim and I went to a fancy restaurant while we were dating. Last night, driving home from school, I saw the sign for it, and thought, "You know, when I graduate, we should go there again, to celebrate," and then was a little shocked to realize what I had just thought. I'd never been able to think far enough ahead to consider graduating. I doubted my abilities as a student. I still do, in the middle of the night, sometimes, wonder whether the cancer will come back. I've been plugging away, one class at a time, not daring to look any further ahead than the end of the class. But last night, tired and mind abuzz with the work I had to accomplish when I got home, for a second I did allow myself to look ahead, and that small glimpse surprised me. Warmed me. Made me happy.

Thinking on it, I guess it is right to say that I have evolved. I hadn't noticed...until a friend pointed it out. Thanks, 'Manda.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tired of It.

Yesterday in my English class, we debated the state of our nation, again. Don't get me wrong, I like my teacher. I think that she is interesting. I think that she is kind. Perhaps it was because I had worked all afternoon on my essay, and was tired. Perhaps it's because I've got three more largish projects to knock out of the way, and a final essay in that class. I don't know. But yesterday, we talked about Thoreau, and the essay that he wrote after being jailed over night. "Isn't it true, that the soldier is really just a piece of clay to be used by the government, with no choice of his own?" "No," I replied. "The soldier is given the obligation to decide what is an unlawful order and what it a lawful order. He has a choice." To a degree, I suppose that she (and Thoreau) are correct. A soldier has a duty. But a soldier also makes that choice, choosing to be bound by duty. She went on to list the ills of our nation. Yes. I will agree with her on that, too. Our country is flawed, and some of those flaws are pretty big ones. But she wound things up the way that she always winds things up: "I don't know. What can we do about these things? We started out so idealistic and that has been lost..."

Maybe it is just me, but no government on the face of this planet lives up to the idealistic notions that it was founded on. All of them fall short of those ideals. And if one looks at our shortcomings (and nothing but our shortcomings) for any extended amount of time, I suppose that it is easy to find yourself feeling hopeless, as if there is no way to fix things. I think that we'd all be better off if we quit worrying about these sorts of things and began to focus on this one thing: "What can we do, today, to make our world a little bit better?" Perhaps it is a kind word, or a good deed, or a gift of our money, or our time. It seems to me if everyone focused more on making the country better instead of screaming about its faults, about the faults of their fellow Americans, we'd finally begin to see some changes.

I want to see people walk the walk. I'm tired of hearing them talk the talk.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Milestones

I have finished that essay. Spent all afternoon on it, but still, it was not long enough. I kept agonizing about it. Until I realized that I had four pages, single spaced. Once I double spaced it, as required, it was (as usual) longer than it needed to be. Boy, this essay was a tough one, and I am tired.

My car turned 200,000 miles on the way to school yesterday. Forgot to tell you that one.

Figured out my schedule for next spring. I've got classes five days a week. I was hoping to avoid that. *sigh*

People in the World

It's been a long stretch. I'm still working on that essay. I should finish it this afternoon. I've got the next three days off work, and I need them. I'm working on another school presentation. I'm tired all the time, but I keep telling myself that it is coming down to the final stretch. After Thanksgiving break, the semester will be nearly over. Today, we will be meeting our advisor for Spring 2011 placement. Seems impossible.

You know what I love? I had a customer who had two sacks of feed and a myriad of small things. I rang up his purchase, he paid, he left. He came back in with his receipt, and a package of chainsaw files. He came up to me with a shamefaced look, and said, "This fell inside the cart. You didn't see them. I forgot I had them." I love that there are people in the world like that.

Know what else I love? I got two packages in the mail yesterday, both from Australia. I got BB's calendar. She included post cards, including one of my favorite pictures. I also got a book from Ro (aka Jayne), who describes herself as the mad cow. (Heh. I've got your address now, Ro.) Thank you both very much. It was a treat to open those packages. I love that there are people in the world like you.

Well, let me get this day under way.

Late edit: Is there anyone else in this world who forgets to start the dryer after switching loads? I would really feel much better to find out there are people like that in the world. Jayne? Now is not the time to tell me about how you handwash your clothing. Really. Remember that I have your address now.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Sky's the Limit

Essay comes from a French word that means 'to try'. This particular essay that I am writing now is trying.

It's an argument, and I hate arguing.

It's on a topic that I have no interest in.

I'm heartily sick of citing references, even using noodletools.com

I've decided that I hate writing.

So today, you get pictures. I've been preoccupied with the sky lately.


This is the view from Cara's sixth floor dorm room. What a view to wake up to every morning!
A pity it's wasted on Cara. Like her mother, she is definately not a morning person. A recent facebook entry read "Oh, my dear bed. I never should have left you. I now realize the error of my ways." Sadly, I too, have had similar epiphanies.



This is a sunset sky downtown.

\
Winter sky.
On the way home from school earlier in the fall.
I'd write more, but I must motivate.
Okay.
I lied.
I'm not going to write more, and it's because I don't wanna.
Did I mention that essay?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Again

Today, I was working at the store when Mr. C came up. He's a big man with a booming voice. With no preparation, he made the announcement. His wife found out last week that her cancer has returned. We were busy, and I had no time to talk, not really, but his news had me reeling in shock. His wife finished treatment after me.

I really try hard not to let news like this affect me, but it does. It does. Inside me there was, once again, an uncurling of something dark and frightening. Anyone who's dealt with this cancer stuff understands this, I'm sure, and we all deal with it in our own way, I suppose. I took a deep breath, and I went back to work. I laughed with my customers, I joshed with my coworkers. I had a good day. If I laughed harder than usual, if I laughed longer than usual, I think that I'm probably the only one who noticed.

It is what it is.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Busy Day at the Tractor Supply.

A couple bear stories at the Tractor Supply.

Ike, one of our managers, was late for work today. He runs a trap line that he checks every morning. He traps coons and fox. This morning much to his amazement, he managed to catch a bear. By two toes. That was a pickle. He had to call the game warden to come out and help him free the little guy. They decided against tranquilizing it, and just wrassled it down and took the trap off his toes, and it scampered away. It was funny as heck to listen to Ike tell the story. He was darned concerned about where this bear's mother was, since this all happened about 5 AM. There is nothing harder to see than a black bear in the dark.

One of our regulars came in. He buys his birdseed from us. He also had a bear story. He heard a crashing, and got up to check it out. A bear had broken into his house. It looked at him, peed in the middle of his floor, and then snagged a bag of bird seed on his way back out. I said, "I'd have made my own little puddle, I'm afraid," and that made him laugh hard.

Merrill's mother stopped in again. She and Tim knew each other, and they visited. She was amazed that people loved the story of her little chicken and has promised to send me a picture of him. I'll post it when I get it.

I drove home tonight in the snow.

Pumpkin Pie

Today at the Tractor Supply, a youngish man came in, wearing a dirty Carhartt bibs. He'd been working hard, and he looked darn tired. He bought some hardware, but he also bought, surprisingly, a candle. It was one of our novelty candles, and it is molded into a little cast iron skillet. He touched it with his big calloused hands as I rang up his things. "I been wanting one of these," he said. "Did you ever smell one?" I said, "Yes, I like walking past the aisle. It smells pretty nice in that corner." He insisted. "Did you ever smell this one, though?" So, to please him, I took a whiff of it. Vanilla Pumpkin. Smelled like a pumpkin pie. "It is nice," I agreed. He said, "I've wanted that candle since the first time I smelled it."

You know, you can tell when people are lonesome, sometimes. They make small talk. They want to talk. Even if it's a cashier in the Tractor Supply. He took his chainsaw accessories, and his candle and he headed for the door. I pictured him sitting by himself in his kitchen, eating a late supper in his kitchen, smiling quietly at his memories as his pumpkin pie candle burned in its little cast iron skillet.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The American Dream

We had a interesting discussion in our English Composition. Our teacher is a sweetheart, a liberal little old lady. You can count on her to fall on the side of the little people. Like me, she feels that taxes are something that you pay because we are, after all, our brother's keeper. We differ a bit in our ideas about how our brother should be assisted, but we see eye to eye on an awful lot. Thrown into the discussion is one ardent libertarian, one 'survival of the fittest' mentality, and a host of other opinions to add to the mix and sometimes things get quite lively. I've tried to just sit quietly in the class, but I can't. Not if my life depended on it. There's always something that comes up that draws me in. This week, our chapter was on the American Dream. Our first essay indicated that the American Dream has become a myth. The teacher blinked at us from the front of the classroom. "What do you think of that?" she asked. "I look around me and I think that maybe this writer is correct. There are a lot of people without jobs. There are a lot of poor people."

I was quiet for maybe...umm...I don't know...my hand shot up immediately...I was quiet for as long as it took her to call on me...maybe 10 seconds. I was very suspicious of the author's statistics, the ones that he based his essay on. Four out of ten poor children will live their entire lives in poverty. Four out of ten rich children will retain their wealth for all their days. Finally, he pointed out that less than 5% of the nations poorest children will make it into the top earning class, that it is unattainable for a full 95%. But I was quick to point out that 6 out of 10 poor children did manage to do better for themselves than their parents did. 6 out of 10 wealthy kids did wind up being not so successful for themselves. And why should it only be of statistical importance that the poorest become the richest? I pointed out that I live comfortably, and never expected to make it into that top earning class, that it was not even a goal for me.

"No," I said, "I believe that the American Dream is alive and well for anyone that is willing to work hard enough to get it. America has lost its work ethic. People spend most of their lives sitting in front of the television. They don't even look for opportunities to improve their situation. They've lost the vision of the American Dream. Moreover, we have failed a generation of kids. They have a sense of entitlement, but don't understand that one must work for what they have." A young man in the front said that the American worker was no longer productive. Mr. Libertarian said that America had become greedy and materialistic. Around and around the room it went, all of trying to decide whether the American Dream was actually dead or whether America had stopped dreaming.

And our teacher smiled sweetly as we all offered up our opinions, occasionally popping in with, "But don't you think..." That woman loves nothing better than a good debate. But her stance was basically, "It doesn't matter how hard you work, for most Americans the American Dream remains just out of reach." I don't believe that. Mostly because of my own experience. I mean, Tim and I have both, for the last seven years, dealt with repeated unemployment. Tim's been laid off, or his company has closed at least eight times. During one particularly difficult time, he was laid off from three different companies in one year. Currently, he's driving over an hour to work every day, because the good jobs are gone from our area. My own job was part of state budget cuts a couple summers ago. Staying afloat is discouraging, but look also where it has got me: I'm going to college. So yes. Good things have come from it. It has forced us to look for other means of income. We no longer rely on the formerly secure machinist trade to provide a living for us. We adjust our lifestyle to fit our circumstances. We look for opportunities, and we find them. Even in the good times, we are cautious and plan for the bad times.

Around and around the room it went, and everyone had an opinion. At one point, the teacher said, "Well, I do see that students do much more poorly in school than they did twenty years ago, and that makes me sad. When I was a kid, if I got a bad grade, I was the one in trouble, not the teacher. I don't know," she said, trailing off. "I think the key is education. I think every person should be guaranteed a college education."

My hand shot up. After all, I sit next to Mr. Taking-the-class-for-the-fifth-time. (He doesn't like to do homework.) I said, "A college education is available to everyone. If they want it. If they are willing to sacrifice to get it. If a college education is free, people will take advantage of it. If you want someone to do their best, they have to be invested in their education." And then that discussion went round and round, touching on school loans. I was shocked to learn that New York residents pay virtually nothing for the education at JCC. I live in Pennsylvania. I pay a couple thousand dollars every semester, minimally.

As the class wound down, the teacher said, "Well, I can't help think that if we are going to change things around, I think we need to teach our children that it is all about education, that they've got to work hard in school, because there are scholarships available for kids that work hard. They need to know that from the start."

My hand shot up.

"Are you saying that our children need to know that there are opportunities available if they work hard? If they give it their all? Sounds a lot like the American Dream to me...."

And she laughed out loud. "You are right," she said. "You are exactly right." She's a very good teacher. She doesn't mind being bested in a debate. In fact, I think that she relishes it, when it happens.

Last Tuesday, I carried that debate. I'd convinced the class and the teacher that the American Dream lived still. Gosh. It felt great.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sleeping In

Monday night is freight night at Tractor Supply. We work hard, and we laugh hard, and everyone pulls together. I like that. It's usually a late night, too. Last night we left at 10. I had to haul over and get gas in the truck, and then I headed home. I was starving, so I walked to the refrigerator to grab something to eat. I had a little internet research to do before I went to bed. Just like that, the power went out.

Well, I had my snack cold, and I went to bed, figuring to get up early. I turned on the light over our bed so that when the power came on, we'd be awakened by the light and Tim could reset the alarm on the clock. At two am, the power came back on. Tim set the alarm. And when the alarm went off, my first conscious thought was "*groan* But I'm tired. I need more sleep." Followed by more complaining. In my head. It was too much effort to form words. Tim leapt up, because that's the way Tim operates. He always springs out of bed like he's got rockets on his butt. Me? Yeah. No rockets. Ever.

So he goes bounding off for his shower. Our usual routine is that he showers, he comes back to our room, and then he switches on lights, talking a blue streak while he gets dressed, telling me that 'it's time to get up.' Except this morning, he came back to the room, switched the lights on, and then studied his clock. Then he turned the lights off and got back to bed. "What are you doing?" I asked, willing my mouth to form audible words. And he said, "I screwed up. I set the clock wrong when the power came back on. We still have another hour."

Best. Morning. Ever.

I snuggled back into my pillows and curled up and went back to sleep.

Side note: when the alarm went off one hour later, I was no more ready to get up then than I'd been the first time I woke up.

But still.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Groups

Last Wednesday, before the big midterm, when people were falling apart, I sent an e-mail to the class suggesting a study time, that we would meet in the library. We ended up with probably eight people, about 25% of the class. It was a good group, and we hit it hard. During our long laughing lunch, it was decided to meet once a week and study. Seemed like a good idea.

So, when another classmate told me that she was really having a hard time, I said, "Come study with us. It really did help..." and she enthusiastically said yes. After class, walking out, one of the members of that original study group said, "Our study group has decided to stay small. We'd like you to join, but this is not something we're offering to everyone."

Oh.

(voice over): 'You have been chosen to receive this special once in a life time offer...Call Now!'

Exclusive. I immediately thought of high school, when we were all in our own little cliques. There were the popular girls. The jocks. The quiet nerdy bookworms. The bad boys. The bad girls. Etc. Etc. Etc. In those years, 'never the twain did meet'. There was no crossing over. Even if the popular girls behaved badly, they would not be 'bad girls'. Even if a nerdy bookworm was fairly well liked, she could not be a popular girl. I stood looking at John in a considering sort of way. I mean, it's their group. They can decide who is in it, I suppose. I suppose it is a compliment that they want me in their group, but that whole exclusivity thing bothered me. So I smiled and said, "Oh, gees, I can't. I committed to another group."

What I didn't realize was that the struggling girl had overheard John's conversation with me, on her way out of the classroom. She sent me an e-mail basically 'letting me off the hook' on the study group offer. She was also hurt and embarrassed to be excluded. It's stupid, I suppose, that things like this should bother us, even into adulthood. But they do. After reading her e-mail, I knew that I'd made the right decision.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Weekend

It was a quiet weekend. A nice one. Saturday was a pleasant day at work. Busy. People were great fun. One of the ladies from my (cringe) presentations told me that she thought it was honest and real, and it made her think about herself. She said, "You sounded like me, really. I think that I'm very healthy. I tend to delay taking care of myself." I guess people do take away what they're meant to take away. I suppose that she'll be more careful, healthwise, now that she's met someone who was totally shocked by cancer. She lives not far from me, and is in the store regularly, so I am hopeful of a new friend.

I lost a friend. Yesterday, sitting in church, I heard that we were suppose to pray for one of our families. Right away, I thought that the matriarch had passed on. Turned out that it was her daughter. Three years younger than me. I attended high school with her for a time.

All in all, it was a quiet weekend, a time for thinking. We drove to pick up the new parts for Tim's car, and we talked quietly and contentedly. Tim's hand sought out mine on a regular basis. We came home by route of Cara's college, to drop off her passport and some other school mail. We went out for supper. One the way home, Tim said, "Well, that was fun." And he did seem as if he had enjoyed himself. I know that I did.

While we were eating, I told Cara about the dog biscuit. She looked at me in mock horror. Turns out she had just watched Pet Sematary for the first time and scared the pucky doo out of herself. She said, "So, Tim? We didn't bury Buck in the middle of an Indian cemetery, did we?" And we all laughed. She told us her own story. She'd found a kitten the a couple days prior. She rescued it, against its will, apparently. It hissed and spat and arched its little back. Her friend chastised her for picking it up, but when Cara handed it to her to hold as she tried to call me on the cell phone, her friend stopped her grumbling to comment. "Gosh, he's so soft." and then "Oh, he's shivering..." and "I'll bet he's hungry..." and then "Awwwww! He's purring." About that time, he suddenly sprang free and escaped. And so I was saved, because if I had received the call, I would certainly have said "Oh, the poor thing, bring him home," which Tim would have been very unhappy about. He does not like animals in the house.

I came home and sent everyone a Halloween card, and then I went to bed early to read as Tim listened to the Steelers game downstairs. The Pittsburgh Steelers were playing against the New Orleans Saints. That morning in church, our pastor had called out, "Go Steelers." A disembodied voice from the balcony said, "I never thought that I'd see the day when a preacher would root against the Saints." So Tim listened to the Steelers lose. For the first time, I used a vibrating heating pad and it really eased the aches out of my back. I fell asleep after only a chapter or two of Dave Barry.