Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bailing Out

Should I feel bad about bailing on the class for which I originally signed on?

In this day and age, students can pick the instructor they want, at least at our institution. There are so many of the same classes offered, the student just looks up who the instructor is and tries to fit the class into his or her own schedule. I've heard from several  students that they chose to take the class with me because I'm fair. Awesome. That is what I aim to be. I might be your friend, eventually, but I only make sure that I'll treat everyone the same and do my best to get the students to learn.

So should I feel bad that, after telling them I'd no longer be teaching the class, that at least four students have dropped?

I'd like to think that the class is more rigorous than they thought; that A & P is too much to handle at 8 am; that these students had no idea that coming in without any Biology background at all would be detrimental to their cause. That's probably why four out of 19 students have withdrawn.

At least that is what I'll tell myself. I know if I had planned on taking a course with one instructor and then learned that a 2nd unknown instructor was taking over, I'd feel a little bit burned. But that's life, and college students need to learn to adapt. If they can figure out the latest Smartphone gadget within seconds of grabbing it, they can learn to live without a lowly adjunct instructor.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The One About the Monkey

Once upon a time in this land, long ago, Aaron received a stuffed animal monkey. When Aaron was little, he would snuggle up to the long-armed beast, who inevitably fell out of the bed and onto the floor. Each morning, I'd pick Monkey up from the carpet and inspect him for wounds. No, the fall didn't hurt him, but the long, sharp teeth of our cat, Lucy, certainly did.

Repeat this action for many years and, combined with Aaron's propensity to throw around said monkey, he was, at last, a little worse for wear. However, I knew how much Aaron loved Monkey, so I made sure that he didn't see the light of day in the trash barrel.

Or so I thought.

We can't find Monkey anymore, who has, over time, taken on the name of Fried Chicken Monkey (I don't know why, that's just what his name is). I've looked everywhere I can think of, mostly at Aaron's request, but also because I feel for this well-loved, but lost, little beast.

The other day, Aaron came up to me, list in hand.
Aaron: Mom, did you look in Melina's closet?
Me: Yes.
Aaron: Behind the drier?
Me: Yes.
Aaron: In the boxes in the basement?
Me: Yes.
Aaron: In the bin that has the cardboard bricks?
Me: Yes.
The list wasn't endless, although it could have been. For each time I said yes, Aaron put a check mark next to the place written on the paper and went to the next one. I could see the filmy layer of tears that coated his eyes. The child is only eight...things liked stuffed animals are a big deal.

Apparently, I didn't understand just how much of a big deal. Every night for the past couple of weeks, I hear a sniffle, then a cry, and sometimes, if I don't catch it right away, I find Aaron sobbing (sobbing!) in his bedroom, clutching whatever stuffed animal he has chosen to sleep with that night. We've discussed that Fried Chicken Monkey might very well have found himself in the donation bin, and if that is the case, then he is most likely nestled in with a little boy or girl who really could stand to have some extra love. This thought placates Aaron for a while, until he realizes that he just really misses his monkey.

What's a mom to do? I actually caved and found another monkey just like it online. He arrived and Aaron played with him for the day, but the allure of the original Fried Chicken Monkey isn't associated with this new stuffed animal. And I can't blame Aaron for not taking to his new friend. He's lost a buddy, an animal he made real so long ago. The thought brings tears to my own eyes.



Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Personal Heroes

Think about your favorite heroes or heroines for a moment...

What do each of them have in common? Can you identify what draws you to them? Can you understand why you might place them in the category of highly regarded characters? It doesn't matter if the character comes from a book or a movie or from real life, I bet each and every one of the people we could list would have one characteristic that shines like the proverbial beacon of light.

I know what I think. Each hero or heroine of mine doesn't just allow life to happen to them. They don't sit back and watch the days go by, hoping that things will go a different way or get better. They don't call up friends and family and ask how to manage their lives (asking for help and opinions are a different matter altogether though). They reach out, take their own lives into their own hands, manipulate that life, work with it, try to make it how they want it, keeping in mind what is best for their family.

But It's a scary thing, waking up and realizing that you need to become your very own hero or heroine. And it isn't easy to do, because sometimes, you need to get selfish. You need to look inward, leave other important people on the periphery, and do what is best for your own personal health. The outcome might not be exactly what you envision, but in the end, you've done it. You've become the master of your own life, and there's a sense of peace in knowing that.

"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show." ~Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Monday, August 26, 2013

Best Options

You know those days where you think about what you thought you'd be doing at 40 and then what you are doing at 40 and compare them? If you aren't 40, that's okay. You can still do the comparison. In fact, if you're younger than 40, get going on the comparison. It might wake you up. But remember, when you look at where you are and where you thought you'd be, blessings come in different disguises, and many times what we thought we wanted might not have been the right choice.

At 40, I thought I'd be working: full-time.
What I am at 40: taking a hiatus (again) from teaching.

At 40, I thought I'd be: a physician (specifically a pathologist).
What I am at 40: a Ph.D. who currently isn't even using the degree.

At 40, I thought I'd have: 3 children.
What I have at 40: 4 kids.

At 40, I thought I'd drive: a minivan.
What I drive at 40: a Honda Pilot.

At 40, I thought I'd be living in: Ann Arbor.
Where I live at 40: the state of Ohio

At 40, I thought I'd be dressed in: baggy clothing and sneakers.
What I dress in at 40: fitted shirts and pants.

At 40, I thought I'd be successful in: my job.
What I am successful in: friendships and mothering.

I think I'll end it there. I could go on, and when I sat down to write this, I had no idea where the post would take me. But now, I see the ending. I've said it many times, but I am grateful, so grateful for my spot in life right now. My friends, my family, my house, my car (used but runs well), my blessings. Plans change, we all know that. Accepting and embracing the changes, while hard, can sometimes be the best option.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Best Birthday Presents

I don't normally go nuts at my birthday, but this year was a bit different. The day of my actual birthday was nothing to write home about. It was full of kids, work, and running here and there. Tim had a baseball game, and I was in bed by 10 pm. That's what being 40 and having a family does to you.

But I did have plans. Big plans, at least for me. And those plans involved friends and family from near and far. So last night, we chatted, we drank, we ate. In short, we had a great time at a very simple Ladies' Night here at home.

It wasn't until clean up time, when I wiped up counters and threw away napkins, that I had the time to reflect on the number of people who came out to celebrate me. Me. Some were local: my book club friends, writing group friends, school friends. Some were not: my sister from Michigan and my good friend Julie (who will now be FRE, Faithful Reader from the East) who goes back with me 22 years. Thinking about every lady who walked through the door last night (including those that couldn't) and what impact they have made on me, almost brought me to tears.

But leave it to my friend Kelsey to make me bring out the handkerchief (yes, Kelsey, I'm singling you out). When I opened my good friend's card and let my eyes roam over the cover, I felt a trickle of salty water begin to form. The cover said, Never ever stop dreaming big crazy dreams. Anyone that knows me at least a bit knows I've been pushing some dreams to the forefront over the last year or so. Well, I should have stopped there, at least for the night and simply savored the cover. Instead, I am a glutton for punishment and went ahead and opened the card. Because I might someday lose that card (despite my best efforts of course) I am reprinting it here:
Dear Chris:

Happy 40th birthday! This, however, is not a birthday card or a birthday gift...You wouldn't believe me if I told you how long (months!) I've had this card set aside for you. I have been so inspired by and in awe of the journey you have taken with your writing. I see you propelling yourself in the direction of your dreams and I am impressed and proud.
I bought this card before you took your place in the short story contest, before you gave up your class for this semester, but between buying this card and now you've been in steady pursuit of a bigger vision for your life. I am blessed to be a witness.

Thank you for the incredible support and friendship you so selflessly offer me. Thank you for sharing pieces of your journey with me. It is an honor.

Love, Kelsey
Kelsey's card and Julie's trip tie for best birthday presents, ever.

Thank you to everyone, but especially those two. Honorary sisters you both are.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

71-80

71. Extra I love yous from the kids.
72. Cool blasts of air from the vents in an air-conditioned car when it is 90 degrees outside.
73. Waking up on your birthday and realizing you've made it to another day.
74. Realizing that the book you wrote might actually have the capacity to be published.
75. Cheerios. Milk. Spoon.
76. A low hanging, creamy moon at 5 am.
77. Brussels sprouts. (Hey, this is my list.)
78. Laughing until your sides hurt with a friend, at any age.
79. Fantastic art teachers.
80. The promise of a new school year.

Monday, August 19, 2013

How Was Your Day?

Let me start off by saying that the conversations listed below did not happen with our insurance company, but with the company of the person who hit us last week. And, as usual, some of this really happened (well, most of it did, as written) and other parts, I had to pull out of my brain. I guess those parts could have been embellished.
Insurance Company (IC): Your car is a total loss.
Me: What does that mean?
IC: We'll pay you X dollars for it and it gets a salvage title.
Me: Okay...
IC: You need to send the title to us. Let me check if you need to get it notarized....Um, no, in your state it isn't necessary. So, I'll send you, via email, the information you need. It will include a FEDEX label, which you can use to send us the title. The salvage yard will call you to make arrangement for the pickup of the vehicle.
Me: Thank you.
Later that day, I check my email. In the email, a copy of a sample title is included. In very large letters are the words: MUST BE NOTARIZED.
Me: Hi. I'm supposed to send you my title, for the car you took away on Friday. But I would like to check to see if I need to get the title notarized. I was told that I don't need a notary.
IC: Oh...let's see. State of X? Yes, yes, you need it to be notarized.
Me: Good thing I double checked, huh? [I can do my job, why can't you do yours?]
IC: Have a good day.
Me: Thank you. You, too.
So, I head over to the local (as in 2 minutes away) bank where we have an account. It is close to me and should limit the amount of time I need to waste on this whole debacle.
Me: Hello. I need to get this title notarized. My vehicle has already been taken, and it is for the salvage title.
Notary: What about this information at the top? I need to know where the vehicle was taken and when it was delivered and all of that. If I don't have it, then I can't sign this. I could have my notary license revoked.
Me: Are you serious? I don't have that information. The insurance company told me not to write anything else on the title, or it would cause problems.
Notary: Then I guess you need to call them.
Me: Thanks.
I head to the car, call Tim, ask him to give me the IC phone number, and after many false starts, I get someone on the line. I recount the notary's news.
IC: Well, we don't have that information about the car. The notary is simply signing that she has witnessed your signature, nothing else.
Me: And I for sure need a notary? [Figured I would ask. They'd been wrong before.]
IC: Yes, you need a notary's signature.
Me: Okay, well, what do you want me to do.
IC: If they won't sign it, then I guess here's what you can do. You can go over to the salvage yard, and--
I cut the IC lady off right there.
Me: Okay, stop. I don't mean to be rude, but I was the one who got hit. I did not cause this accident. I'm doing enough legwork here and you already took my car. I am not going to the salvage yard to deliver a title.
IC: Well, the notary should sign it. Do you want me to speak to her?
Me: Yes, please. Hold on.
IC: All right.
Me: Thank you.
I walk back into the bank and see that the notary is now in a meeting. The teller, who has been friendly in the past, informs me that I can wait. I don't bother.
Me: The notary is busy. I'll figure something out.
IC: Okay.
Me: Sorry to be angry. Thank you for your help.
IC: If you need to speak with us or you need the notary to speak with us, please use the number you just called.
Me:Okay, thank you again.
So, I head over to the credit union (as in 10 minutes away), where the notary doesn't give me any trouble. She looks at the title, understands what I am saying, and signs her name, after I sign my own. I make it to FEDEX even before Melina gets home.

And only once, did I forget my manners.

61-70

61. Friends who do you huge favors and make it look like nothing.
62. Teachers who care for your children.
63. Coffee (I might have used this, but it begs to be said again).
64. Computers.
65. Colorful pens that jazz up any paper.
66. Acorns that look like little people with hats.
67. Albino squirrels.
68. The dusty, smoky smell that heralds autumns arrival.
69. Polka dot shoelaces.
70. Cool morning runs.

Friday, August 16, 2013

So Long

Maybe it's because I'm having my period. Maybe it's because the week has been stressful. Maybe it's because my little Melina took the big step of starting kindergarten today. Maybe it's a conglomeration of all of those things that caused it to happen: I sat inside my minivan today, and upon hearing the news that I would, indeed, need to send it to the salvage yard, warm tears began to run down my cheeks.

It's a car, for goodness sakes. It's a car. But this car has served us well. It's the car we purchased because three kids in car seats couldn't sit safely in Tim's vehicle. And when Melina came along, we filled one more seat with her sweet angel face. I've driven the cats back and forth to the vet in it; Shadow has visited Michigan and Pennsylvania in this car; we've taken it countless places like Chicago, Walloon Lake, Washington D.C. and Florida. Despite the stickers on the back window and the endless piles of crumbs, the minivan is my friend. It's listened to me rant and rave and console and yell. In fact, I have spent more time in that car than I have on my family room couch. 

And now, it's leaving. I don't know when yet, although it needs to be soon so that our case can be closed. The salvage yard will call and set up a time to come get my friend; they'll need to tow it because the axle needs repair. I think I'll choose not to be there that day, or else I might need a little repair, too.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Gifted

According to The Free Dictionary online:

gift·ed  (gftd)
adj.
1. Endowed with great natural ability, intelligence, or talent: a gifted child; a gifted pianist.
2. Revealing special talent: a gifted rendition of the aria.
 
Let me remind everyone that if we search hard enough, we can find a little bit of gifted in everyone. Talents are sometimes hidden; facets of ourselves, those that might allow us to be considered gifted by society, might not manifest until they are ready. Be happy with who you are, and be willing to share those talents you might have with those that don't, no matter what they are.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Age

Do you ever look at a picture of a Facebook friend and think, Do I look that old? Do I?

That just happened to me. One of the people I know from elementary school had a lovely picture of himself with his three young girls. Judging by the picture, he looks to be in his mid-forties (he isn't quite forty yet).

And I want to know: Do I look like I'm as old as I am? Cut to the chase, don't be shy. There isn't much I can do about any of it. I just want to know.

By the way, I don't mind looking my age. I just really don't feel like looking any older!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Middle School Musings

Sixth grade was an awesome year for me.

Sixth, seventh, and eighth grades were located in a different wing of the school, set off from the other kids, so that even though we went to the same school, we were, in some way, not quite at the same school. It was the best the administration could do to give the older children a more middle school experience.

And that experience, as I said, was awesome. I loved the teacher, the lockers, the respect that we earned as older adolescents in the school. I loved the subjects we learned and the field trips we took. The only down side to sixth grade was that at the end of it, my crush left. Ah, such a wounded heart I had.

As I sit here, on the morning that my tiny girls embark on their own sixth grade year, I actually feel a flutter of anticipation and excitement. We've been over to the school several times already: their lockers are set, they know how to open them, they have their books and supplies and have walked their schedule several times. The lockers and classrooms aren't far from the cafeteria, and thankfully, the girls are close to both the counselor's office and the front office. While I don't think anything will be a problem, knowing that help is literally right around the corner will have me feeling slightly less wonky as the day goes by.

I'm excited and nervous and happy and sad, all rolled into one, and to be truthful, while I thought I was ready for the change, it is now clear to me that once again, I'm not. I'm just not ready. I'd like to say more, but a few tears just formed on my eyelids, and the last bits of the lunches (the parts the girls didn't pack themselves last night) need to be put together. So I'm escaping. When I recover, I'll let you know how the first day went.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Morning Wake Up

Our Monday morning started off with a bang...literally.

On the way to the kids' piano lessons, while we were still within the confines of the neighborhood, a young lady either failed to stop or didn't see us coming down the street. Despite my attempt to swerve around the car I caught sight of in my peripheral vision, her car hit ours. Obviously, we didn't make it to piano lessons.

All human parties involved (a total of 8) walked away unharmed. The cars...well...those are another matter. The front end of the girl's car practically fell off into the street. Our sliding door on the passenger side of the car is smashed in, and I had to haul a piece of the car home in the backseat. That piece is resting nicely in our garage. 

So I didn't get my back-to-school list done today. We managed to walk away from an accident. I'll take that, no problem.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Almost There...

Big hallways.
Little girls.
Big smiles.
Little lockers.
Big blessings.

We'll see what Tuesday brings.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Choices

I could choose to be overwhelmed by the back-to-school business that rests solidly on the calendar or I could instead sit back and eat cheezits.

The cheezits win out.

I could choose to make sure my lectures are put together properly or I could instead look at tile for the backsplash.

The backsplash takes precedence.

I could choose to freak out that the twins will be entering middle school this year and that Melina will be a kindergartner or I could instead embrace my new-found time to myself.

Can you guess which one is currently in winning there?

I think I'm so discombobulated by everything else in my life right now that I haven't thought about the fact that all three of my girls are growing up. I guess growing old does that to a person.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Breaking News

News just out! Breastfeeding can cut the risk of Alzheimers!

I don't need to remind any of you about my stint with extended nursing do I? Crap, if Melina had her way, she'd still be milking me. At least now I can say that my foray into long-term milk production has yet another benefit amongst a list of many.

And yet, I forgot what time to pick the girls up tonight from piano...

You know what they say. It's only a problem if you forget who the girls are.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Driving

Beep, Beep!

Had to post a beautiful picture of our niece, Catalina, at the wheel.

Great way to start a Monday, no?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Slammed

I was putting Melina to bed last night, when the most horrible thought crossed my mind. Staring at her beautiful face, I realized (and it slammed me much like someone does when they run into you), that I no longer want to teach A & P.

Good thing to figure out a few weeks before the semester starts, right? As much as I'd like to call up the college and say I won't be returning (and I know of someone who did just that, in the middle of the term), I can't do it. But will I have the guts to break the connection for next semester? And if I do turn my back on teaching, doesn't that mean I really need to kick my writing career into high gear?

Yes, it does. Another reason to get those query letters written and sent out.

Anyone care to proofread?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

That Other Job

I looked at my watch today and noticed that (gasp!) it is August 3. I am set to teach a class, starting on August 19, bright and early at 8 am. Sure, it's a class I've taught before, but I should do some preparation, shouldn't I? Shouldn't I?

Which means I need to put away the Writing folder and open up the Biology one. At least for a couple of days.

Boo-hoo.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Filters

It's always a good day when you learn something new. What did I learn today?

I learned how to take the panel off the front of my furnace/AC unit. Of course that sets up the question as to why I wanted to do that in the first place, right?

Because yesterday, in my haste to replace a dirty filter (the fan had been running continuously for a few days and we'd had the AC on for much of late June and July) I inadvertently put the wrong size filter into the slot. Let me tell you. It's easier to fix the situation when the filter is too large: it won't fit through the opening. When the filter is too small, as it was in my case, it slipped all the way to the bottom, where it would sit for eternity (or until I decided to rescue it).

I don't know about you, but I wasn't sure exactly what to do with that contraption in the basement. I thought about trying to pull off a door, or unscrew a screw on the metal sheet underneath which I knew my filter was hiding, and then I thought, what if I really mess something up? That's when the light bulb went on in my head. While it is only August, I'd be calling for a furnace tune-up in September or October. Why not go ahead with that check and have the technician rescue the filter at the same time? Brilliant, I say!

So we did that. The technician arrived this morning and showed me how to properly remove the panel, should I have another moment of insanity and need to retrieve poorly fitting filters. I can show off my new found ability the next time you come to visit. Aren't you excited?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

51-60

51. Unexpected phone calls from old friends.
52. Unexpected, good news from old friends.
53. Peanut butter and honey on whole wheat sandwiches.
54. The song of  the cicada as August is ushered in.
55. Carmen Sandiego.
56. Doing something idiotic and being able to laugh at yourself.
57. Authors who put their all into a book and then share it with you.
58. Ice cold water on a very humid day.
59. Freesia.
60. Being able to predict which shoes the twins will choose based on their personalities (and being right).