Friday, July 29, 2005

It's Over..........

If you ever read any teacher blogs, you'll note that in April they get cranky. By May they are permeated by a certain giddy excitement. During June and July they become very eclectic. But by August they should all be bordered in black. Our summer days are ticking away, today is my last.

I really do enjoy my job. I feel lucky that I get up every morning to spend my time with congenial staff and a principal I like and admire. When I think of people who spend 8 hours day trapped in a cube doing something repetitive, meaningless and boring I realize that I am fortunate indeed.

But it's the structure that I dread. During the summer my days are like custard, sweet, slippery and willing to take any form or format I wish. During the school year they resemble crackers - neatly divided into tight little squares with no wiggle room. Like crackers, if something unexpected comes up (broken car, illness, friend in town) the day falls apart and crumbles beyond repair.

No rolling over one more time after the alarm goes off, no lingering over coffee, reading an extra chapter in my book, lingering in the store, having a leisurely lunch with a friend.

Nope, it's back to split second timing, dumping in a load of laundry on my way out the door, hitting the grocery store during the 5 o'clock rush, flinging dinner together and dashing upstairs to pack the E-bay books. Always watching the clock and trying to grab the minutes as they slip way. And never, ever quite being all caught up.

Oh well, it's only 4 months till the Winter break!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Back in the Saddle Again...

Vacation is over... not officially, as in "the contract says we have to be there" , but as in "off the clock in-services so I can get my flex days and my required non contract hours" . Most professions require continuing education but doctors always seem to be jetting off to exotic locations to learn the latest tricks of the trade. Lawyers get sent to seminars during the work day, ditto accountants. Teachers not only have continuing education on the clock, we have to get additional hours off the clock on our own time. Oh well, nobody ever said life was fair.

The 4 day class I'm taking is quite interesting, I'm learning a great deal but I'm also having to sit a great deal. I'm not used to sitting. In the library I'm on my feet most of the time and during the summer I'm not one to sit around and eat bon-bons.

You know, sitting around all day is very tiring!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Becoming Invisible

My friend who is ill has a broken leg and a broken arm and can't drive so I've been her chauffeur. Kroger offers electric go carts so we headed there to replenish her pantry and larder.

She got herself situated and off we went, she did the steering and me following with my own cart. My job was to get the groceries from the high and low shelves - grocery stores aren't made for people who shop sitting down.

They also aren't made for people who aren't ambulatory, but for some reason they are made for people who can't see. I don't see how anyone can ignore a go-cart but my friend (who is not the shy, mousy type) suddenly became invisible. We chanted "excuse me" , "please move", "Beg pardon" , "I'm sorry", "No, you need to move your cart too" (Texans are very polite) while traversing aisles 1-6.

By aisle 7 we cut to the chase "move".

By aisle 8 I wondered if Kroger carried bazoka horns - the kind the clowns use in the circus - we could have used one.

By aisle 9 friend contemplated rapping people on the ankles with her cane.

The kicker came as we left. Car was in the handicapped section. Standing there, blocking the way to the car and the door were 2 woman with their carts gossiping. One of them had a toddler which both of them were ignoring. We approached and it was pretty obvious we needed access to the car they were blocking. They ignored us.

We tried the loud cough approach. Didn't work.

"Excuse me" Didn't work either".

Finally resorted to "You have to move, you are blocking our car".

They moved - all of 2 feet and blocked the trunk. Toddler continued to run up and down the rectangle created by our car, an adjoining car, us and the gossip monglers. My friend couldn't maneuver the cart down the ramp for fear of running over him. I couldn't bring the groceries down. The ladies kept talking, the kid kept rambling about and we kept staring at them.

Finally we snapped out "Get your kid and move. We need to get into the car you are blocking."

They looked mildly put out that we dare disturb them and went on into the parking lot. Where they continued to stand. And talk. And ignore the child. I fully expected to the see story on the evening news "Child run over in grocery parking lot, film at 11".

Friday, July 22, 2005

Houston Never Ceases to Surprise

In many ways, Houston is a very tiresome city. The weather is ghastly - right now going outside is akin to walking directly into a 6 foot high damp and moldy sponge. The traffic is worse. There appears to be a little known law that makes it illegal to ever complete a freeway. It's about the only traffic law Houstonians adhere to. And then there is a our complete and total lack of zoning which has resulted in an "anything goes" form of city planning. In Houston you'll find a gas station next to a McMansion with a convenience store round the corner.

This lack of zoning results in a constant tearing up and redoing of buildings, parks, streets (hence the freeway law) with nothing ever staying the same. Much of the time this is very depressing, with historic buildings disappearing right and left. But sometimes the changes are exciting.

Herman Park is our equivalent of Central Park. Over the years it had gotten scruffy and down at the heels from over use. Houston has a habit of building grand public spaces but never budgeting enough money to maintain them properly.

I was a bit early for an appointment near the park and since it was early and not yet to steamy I took a walk. I hadn't been there in years, not since my girls outgrew the going to the zoo stage.

It had recently been redone and the changes were amazing. New plantings, new paths, some areas were wildscaped, others landscaped. The lake had new borders and benches and some very happy ducks. The trash was gone and grass green and lush - nice change from the hard brown, trampled vistas of old. The old statue of Sam Houston astride his horse now frames a stunning vista of relection pool from one side and the city skyline from the other.

The view Posted by Picasa

That's what makes Houston bearable, you turn the corner and discover something new and suprising.

Sam on His Horse Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Drove my friend, who is very ill to the Cingular store so she could get a new phone. Ernest young salesman carefully explained the differences between the one year and two year plans. Simultaneously we look at each other and burst into gales of laughter. The salesman looked most perplexed.

She explained the reason- she'll be lucky to have another year, much less two.

The salesman took in stride and was most helpful, a distinct pleasure after some of my previous encounters with folks in the service business.

Sometimes you just gotta laugh, even it's not really appropriate. It beats the alternative.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Warning - Rant Ahead...

When did the service industry decide to ignore the word "service"? There seems to be an epidemic of "the customer be dammed" lately.

Last week, lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, the server ignores us in favor of the adjoining table which is 100% male. Once we do get her attention she bungles our order and then manages to further ignore us and avoid all eye contact , while being most attentive to the table next to us. The hostess is to busy flirting with yet another man to address my complaint. Letter of complaint in the mail within 24 hours.

This evening I stop at a Starbucks, lots of folks at the tables but there is no line. 2 Baristas argue loudly over who is going to wait on me. I like feel like an intruder and does not give me a warm, fuzzy welcome feeling. E-mail fired off to corporate within 24 hours. And isn't Barista the most pretentious word in the world? No matter how you slice it and dice it, Starbucks is a coffee shop!

I'm in the service biz myself - a good school librarian is at the beck and call of every teacher in the school since our job is to support theirs. I have very high standards for myself and consequently expect the same when I'm on the receiving end.

Perhaps they are to high?

Saturday, July 16, 2005

I'm Not Wild About Harry

Will everyone else who is NOT reading Harry Potter #6 please sign in? I tried love the books, but I wasn't able to get through the first one or the second one and when it came to the third one I didn't even try. I just don't like fantasy. Never have, never will. The list of fantasy books I've never been able to finish reads like a who's who of the genre. The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, The Narnia Series, The Redwall books, The Chronicles of Merlin, The Robert Jordan books. Nobody can say I haven't tired.

I buy them for my school library, I recommend them wholeheartly to the kids and I'm delighted that J.R. Rawling has made reading "cool". I think there way to much hype and that some parents have turned the books into the Cabbage Patch Dolls for the new millennium. "See what a good parent I am, I stood in line at midnight to be sure little Madison (who is all of 4 years old and really prefers GoodNight Moon) had a copy on the first day". But such is life.

But every now and then a child returns Harry and when I ask what they thought of it whispers "I didn't like it". And I whisper back "I didn't either". And both of feel like we are no longer "the only ones".

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

All Grown Up

In May both my girls graduated college. It was a strange feeling, knowing they were really done with childhood and were now "young women on their own". The younger is going to graduate school so she still has one foot in childhood and the other in adulthood. Though not entirely, since she's financing her own higher education.

The elder leapt into adulthood feet first and landed safely. Within 3 weeks of graduation she'd moved to Los Angeles, found an apartment and a job that is somewhat connected to her degree. With benefits no less. Mom, who has been paying very high health insurance premiums for years is delighted.

And she's off to London and Hamburg for 2 weeks - on business. She's always wanted to travel and she's over the moon with excitement.

All grown up and flying high. Mom's so proud of you!

Bigger isn't Always Better

This is Texas, which prides itself on having the biggest everything. We had an Ikea, it was big but it wasn't BIG ENOUGH. So they acquired the adjacent lot, built a bigger one and tore the old one down for a parking lot (and no, they didn't pave paradise in the process).

Went there today to help a friend bring a chair home home. Early in the morning, not especially crowded but I swear it took us 30 min. to find it , haul it to the cash register and leave. Friend knew exactly what chair she wanted. The 30 minutes were spent following their rabbit trail from entrance to exit. One cannot nip in and out of Ikea, one must stroll / meander/ power walk/ through the entire store.

I like Ikea, I really do. I appreciate the fact that they produce well designed furniture & household items for a reasonable price. They don't feel the need to add tacky plastic "carvings" to their headboards or make fake Louis XVth chairs. It's all clean lines, muted colors, and blond wood. Hip, stylish, trendy but not passe by years end.

But it's overwhelming. I think I'll confine my Ikea shopping to their catalog, call ahead and have it waiting for me!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Rare Venture into Politics

Not being a political animal, I rarely comment on current events but the bombings in London cry out for a comment. Everything that can be said, has been said by those who are more elequent than I.

This website says it all. If we give in to the terrorists then they will indeed win.

Time abhors a Vacuum

Ever notice that just when you think you might have nothing to do LIFE rushes in and ensures that your cup once again overflows? It's summer, I'm not working the girls are living on their respective coasts and I should be a lady who lunches. Right? Wrong!

My summer is fast disappearing. Of course I did put in a week of my own time cataloging the math manipulatives. I don't think there is an elementary school librarian in the country who cares for Marilyn Burns. She may be a great math teacher but a pox on her base ten blocks, pattern blocks and tangrams.

Redid the E-Bay office, since the books were spilling out into the hall. We have kittens again, so I'll put in a day trying to trap them so I can get them spayed. Devoted a couple of days to serious thrifting and 2 days to library sales that proved to be not worth the trip. But you don't know that till you try. Stuffed books into my auction program in the hopes they will sell once the Holiday buying season starts again.

All teachers schedule their doctor appointments during the summer, as well as any 8-5 sort of things that normal folks can do on their lunch hours (teachers don't get lunch hours, we get a lunch break). A friend is very ill and I've been helping her out by taking her meals and running her errands.

Our first "official" day back is August 1, but the last week of July will be taken up with semi mandatory inservices, so that leaves me just 2 weeks.

And once again, another summer slips away................

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Events Continue

Whatever planet it is that governs how well things work is most definitely retrograde at the moment. Not only did we have a Series of Unfortunate Events at our B& B we have also have an equally Series of Unfortunate Events with our car. The back window got stuck in the “down” position. In true Southern fashion we Gerry rigged a fix of sorts using a cardboard box and duct tape. My sister in law informed us that the car has now found “its inner mullet”. It made quite an impression on valets at the Grove Park Inn, since not many of their guests drive cars held together with duct tape. At least the cardboard box once held 12 very nice bottles of wine, which gave it a bit more class than say, a Moon Pie carton.

Then heading home, down I-59 from Tuscaloosa, directly into the path of Tropical Depression Cindy the windshield wipers gave up the ghost. At least there was a dealership in Tuscaloosa, the cell phones worked and best of all the dealership has wireless internet to keep us amused while the car was fixed.

At this point we are holed up in a motel in Louisiana, where I am musing on stealing the shower curtain so we can upgrade to plastic.

Monday, July 04, 2005

A Series of Unfortunate Events

This weekend is my family reunion - it's not a big wing ding, being there are 3 of us, our respective SOs, my mother, her twin sister and 3 grandchildren. But we live all over and every 5 years my mothers calls in the chips and we all trek to North Carolina.

This year, we were to convene on a B&B in Tryon, a small & charming town on the NC/SC border. My mother and brother (I come from a family of compulsive planners) checked the place out but somehow between then and now it went through not 1 but 2 new owners.

Our first inkling that something wasn't quite right was when we couldn't find the B&B , despite having printed the map from their web site. Seems 2 highways converge through Tryon, and they got a tad confused as to which highway they were on. Rather odd that they managed to do that since they smack dab in downtown Tryon and only one highway runs through the strip of stores and coffee shops.

Second inkling - We ty to call the inn and and can only get an answering machine.

Third inking - we finally find it, no proprietor is to be found. Assorted loud coughs, "hellos", knocks and ringing of a bell finally produced a barely legal to work teenager who doesn't know the Goth look is passe. Her attire goes with the rather dim and gloomy lighting - I swear there isn' a light bulb stronger than 20 watts anywhere on the premises. We understand why later.

Fourth inkling - the door knob comes off the door to our room as we try to open it. We learn this is a regular occurrence as they drop off every other door in the place over the course of the weekend. We are told the building is "very old". That becomes the catch phrase for every other problem we incounter.

Fifth inkling - the room odor is something between wet dog and musty closet. My beloved points this out to Miss. Goth, 2005. "Oh yea" she responds, it usually doesn't smell to bad, but it's been so hot lately. Turn on the AC and it should go away".

We go to lunch with the family and pick up a few candles just in case. 2 hours later candles & AC have lost the battle and wet dog is triumphant. My Beloved's allergies are out in full force (they love this place) and it's very apparent we can't stay there. Tryon is not large and it's 4th of July weekend. Not a lot of options. We call the Minosa Inn, a B&B we'd passed in our fruitless search and they graciously take us in. Place is clean, door knobs know their place and it smells like warm cookies and hot coffee.

All is well, My Beloved plays golf and I hang out with my family at the B&B, AKA the summer home of the Addams Family where we start a football pool as to whose doorknob will drop off next. The entire family goes out to dinner in a near by town. Much food, much, much wine, it's late, it's dark and it's raining and we head back.

Only to find that the electricity is out in half of the Addams Family Manse, they don't know why (so that's why all the lamps were only 20 watt). No lights, no AC, no flashlights, no candles and no clue as to when an electrician can come out and fix the problem.

And we have 2 ladies in their 80s who need a place to sleep without worrying about falling and tripping in the dark. We call the Mimosa and not only do they answer their phone, they graciously drop everything and prepare beds for the weary travelers.

We then face to task of packing suitcases sans light. We discover that, in a pinch, cell phones can double as flashlights. Luckily, we have 3 teenagers in the group so we have cell phones aplenty. We grope our way about the rooms aiming the phones at bureau tops, bathroom counters and closets while we try to gather everything up.

My girls go spend the night with my brother, my brother and nephew opt to rough it at the B&B since their room is the half of the building that does have lights - and door knobs. We stuff the family matriarchs in our car and head for Minosa.

We arrive to find the lights on, the beds turned down and all's well that ends well. And we know where we are holding our next reunion!