Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How You Can Save a Life. And My Sanity.

Last night, on my way home from a super-long day at work, I saw a little kitty cat racing across a busy street.  I won't go into details, but to put it lightly, Little Kitty met a terrible fate, courtesy of two cars that didn't even tap the brakes.  Luckily for me, through the waterfall of tears pouring down my face, I saw a car pull over to scoop said kitty up.  Thank goodness there are still kind and non-hysterically crying people in the world.

In my heart, they went straight to the Animal Emergency Room.  There was some emergency life-saving surgery performed by a brilliant cat surgeon who happened to stop in to leave some fliers for his new pro-bono stray animal surgery foundation.  At worst, said kitty might have to use one of those carts that carry around their hind legs. 

In my head, I know that most of that is not true.  Okay.  Probably none of that is true.  *sigh*

And then I panicked and thought the worst.  I am a kitty owner.  What if that had been my cat?  What would I do?

Not that it was any of my kitties.  Nope.  My kitty cats are fat and lazy and would shit their pants if they were ever even on the front porch (or if cats wore pants).  They hiss a mean game at each other, but in truth, they simply are not cut out for the street life.

See what I'm sayin'?  There's no napping on the street, bitches!

No.  I was worried about my PK.  My Porch Kitty.  I call him Jake.  I don't know why.  It just fits.
"I'm Jake, and I'm not good at sitting still for pictures!"

Several months ago, I was adopted by this kitty and his brother.  Word from one neighbor was that they belonged to someone down the street who just never fed them or let them in the house.  Jackholes.  I took pity (I'm genetically pre-disposed to the need to take in all strays) and began feeding them.   Jake's little brother, Boo, was miraculously adopted (in my heart -- adopted) by a kind stranger who has a catnip farm.  Thus, Jake has become a bachelor... living it up in the shed or the back porch or even the lid of my recycling bin.  He even found a way to survive the long weeks this summer when I was at camp.

Each morning, when I open the screen door, he races around the corner to the front porch.  In the evenings, when my car pulls into the driveway, he is at the door to greet me.

"I love you.  And your Meow Mix."
It might have a little something to do with the Meow Mix I serve up each day, but I prefer to think our friendship runs much deeper. 
Food = easy to photograph

You'll also notice that Jake is super skinny.  Now, I don't have much knowledge of "normal-sized" cats, but he seems a bit on the supermodel-lean scale.  I also worry -- even more intensely after last night's episode -- that I'll come home one day to find a roadside tragedy.  

I cannot take another cat into my home.  A) My cats don't even like each other, let alone other animals and 2) I have FURniture.  Seriously.  I cannot wear black pants ever again.

I also cannot continue to just leave Jake on the front porch.  I mean, I already gave him a name.  I buy him his own food.  I'm attached, and I've been down this road before.  I once had a Porch Kitty named Buster.  He showed up one day, sweet as can be.  I fed him and watered him and even nursed him back from a snake bite on the foreleg with some old dog antibiotics.  Buster was a total badass.  And then, one day, he was gone.  I cried for weeks.  

I can't do that again.

So here's my offer, America.  If you are interested in a really sweet and loving kitty, I know one.  I cannot testify to whether he claws furniture or will live inside or gets along with other animals.  I don't know if he loves kids or will chase your robot vacuum.  But I can tell you, with all confidence, that he is loyal.  He is tough.  He doesn't bawl and squall.  He can make do with just a trash can lid for a bed, and he eats fast and cheap.  I will corral him in a carrier and bring him wherever you are, and I will even share in the cost of vetting and neutering him.  This is how much I like this crazy cat.  All you have to do is give the go-ahead.  I think that good ol' Jake would make a wonderful addition to any household, and I'll even let you change his name.

But might I suggest "Buster"?

Friday, August 26, 2011

The End of an Era

Yesterday, I said good-bye to an old friend. I'd avoided it for a while, pretending that the end wasn't near. But not wanting to let go, while human, is futile. All good things must come to an end.

The Boy Under the Stairs is no more.

That's right. I finally saw the last Harry Potter movie yesterday. I had hoped to wait long enough to find myself in an empty theater, sitting alone so that I could grieve in peace. Alas, 12:55 PM, 8 weeks after release, is still not enough time as I found myself weeping quietly with at least 80 other people.

I'm no idiot. I knew what I was getting myself into. I've read the entire series at least 3 times. I harbored no illusions that things would change.  It didn't matter.  From the opening scenes at Dobby's little hand-dug grave, I was a puddle.  Damn elves.  Sheesh.

I am usually the harshest critic of books becoming movies... as my friend Kit said (after seeing Charlotte's Web in the theater), "It can just never be as clear on a screen as it was, listening to your 3rd grade teacher read it aloud while you laid your head upon your school desk".  I have to admit, however, that while I found the first couple of movies to be somewhat simplistic and surface valued, as the actors matured, directors changed, and the darkness of the storyline intensified, the movies became sensational with the two covering Book 7 being, by far, my favorite.  My interest in the films' progressions mirrored my own fascination with the books and awe at Rowling's skill at weaving together story lines that grew up along with her readers.  Unlike some of the latest young adult literary crazes (that started strong and fell apart in the end), the reader can't feel the deadline on the author's shoulders or the cash cow nipping at her heels.

And that's how these last movies felt.  They just felt... right.  Appropriate.  Timely, even.  But "timely" and "appropriate" are poor excuses for Kleenexes in a darkened theater.

And in response to another blockbuster, young-adult, the end is nigh movie premiere coming to a theater near you soon, I give you one of my new favorite Stephen King quotes.

"Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend."

— Stephen King

Monday, August 22, 2011

First Day of School: 2011 Edition

Tomorrow is the first day of school.  Again.

You'd think that after 30 of these the newness of it all would wear off.  It hasn't.  And I fully realize what a huge nerd that makes me.  So be it.  I cannot remember a time when I wasn't a huge nerd; it just took next to forever to accept that fact.

"Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. On the other hand, this not knowing has its charms."  Name that movie. 

I wish someone would send me a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils.  I wish I lived in a state that had an actual, visible "fall" season. *sigh*

But the first day is exciting.  As a child, it meant donning my new shoes or grabbing my fancy lunch box (which I would carry once and then eat in the cafeteria for the other 186 days), but as a teacher, it's something different.  It's the beginning of an adventure.  It makes me nostalgic about the past and hopeful for the future.  Anxious but hopeful.

"Remember, Red. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

Bonus points for naming that movie (although quoting a prison movie in regard to school is kind of funny).

  • I hope my alarm(s) go off in the morning.  My alarm(s) cause me great anxiety.  Specifically my knack for turning off my alarm, hence why I have alarm(s) -- plural.
  • I hope I remember my lunch in my brand new lunch box as I rush out the door.  And, yes, I bought myself a brand new lunch box.  It's a hard habit to break.
  • I hope I use my lunch box for all (or at least most) of the next 187 school days.  Sucker cost me $9.00. 
  • I hope I remember to take roll and take it the right way.  The first days are like no other when it comes to taking roll, and someone is bound to screw it up.  Just please, Lord, don't let it be me.
  • I hope I can learn all 120 names in a week or less. 
  • I hope they learn mine in a week or less.
  • I hope that every kid will understand how to work his locker on the first day/week/month.  This will most likely not happen, so I hope I can keep my deep sighs to a minimum when they ask for help for the 900th time.
  • I hope that at least one kid laughs at my corny jokes.
  • I hope that I make at least one kid feel more at ease by the time he leaves my room tomorrow.
  • I hope that I help them learn to plan.
  • I hope that I help them learn to complete.
  • I hope that I help them learn to succeed.
  • I hope to keep my voice calm and my face blank when I am frustrated with a student.
  • I hope that I have the courage to speak up when I am frustrated with a co-worker.
  • I hope that I lead by example. 
  • I hope that I lend a positive atmosphere throughout my school.
  • I hope that my lesson plans are both effective as well as turned in on time.
  • I hope to have my good days outnumber the tough days and for the great days to outnumber the good.
  • I hope I bought enough paper and supplies to last the year.  I didn't.  I never do, no matter how much I buy.
  • I hope I get kids who care and that I can make them care even more.
  • I hope that when I get kids who don't care I can make them care even just a little.
  • I hope that when I feel like giving up, that I cannot go any further, there's someone to talk me off the ledge.
  • I hope for calmer hallways and cooler weather.
  • I hope I can see the top of my desk again sometime before Christmas. 
  • I hope that I am up for all of the challenges that face me this year. 
  • I hope I make the same kind of difference that my own teachers made for me.
  • I hope.

Monday, August 15, 2011

On Emotional Melting Points

Well today was the day. Mark your calendars. Today was my first fall-apart of the school year.

And I do so love me a semi-public fall apart.

Please re-read the above line with an appropriate amount of sarcasm.

All of a sudden, there I was, grumbling to a co-worker about a schedule choice I didn't agree with and my inability to complete a task, and BOOM. My anger and frustration about a hundred things I could not control came spilling out into streams of frustrated tears. And then one of my supervisors walked in.

Because it's not enough to lose my shit in semi-public. I had to lose my shit in semi-public, in a big teary mess with the boss as a bystander. And I say "semi-public" because although we were in my classroom, the door was still open, inviting people (such as my supervisor) to come in/gawk at the door.


In my head, I know that release of emotion is a positive thing; it's healthier than keeping everything bottled up until an eruption point. But, deep down, it still feels so... so... shameful. So out of control.

It's interesting since just yesterday, my best friend called me, exhausted and nearingthe edge of her controlled grip on sanity, to ask for help. Help. Something big? Hide a body? Launder some money? Scoop poop from the yard? Install a new carburetor? Ummm.... No, no, no, and hell-to-the-no. She needed me to play with her 2 and a half year old son, so she could get some much-needed sleep (since she also has a 12 week-old baby girl).

Yep. That's it. Babysitting a child that I absolutely adore. And then she resisted going to bed, instead putting laundry in and folding clothes until I reminded her that,"Hey. You should be NAPPING". And she looked at me and asked me, "Why is this so hard? To ask for help?".

I answered her as simply as I knew how. "Because we were raised to just 'handle it'. And all of our lives, we did."

Her reply? "But we didn't handle it well."

And this is why asking for help and finding new ways to de-stress are top priorities for me this year.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

One is Silver and the Other Gold

I've waited for a few days to write this post.  (In truth, it will probably turn out to be a series of posts.  A lifetime love is hard to capture in one entry.) 

Remember, I needed a bit of time to get back on the "normal" side of the Nostalgia Line?  Well, tonight I spent one last evening with several of my wonderfully sweet and dedicated summer staff.  The twinge to float down Amnesia Lane was there, but it did not leave me in a tearful mess on the drive home.  No tears.  That's the green-light for thinking about the past without calling up all of my friends, blubbering the words, "Remember when...?  Waaahhhh..."  No tears = safe zone.

At the end of the summer, I couldn't help but start to think about the past and how my life in camping has come full-circle.  How 25 years ago, I was changed without even knowing it.  And I'd catch myself, looking at my counselors and campers, wondering where this journey would take them in a quarter of a century.

When I was 10, I spent my first summer at Camp Cibola, a Girl Scout camp only about 5 miles from my house.  I can clearly remember asking my parents if I could go, worried that they'd see the price and pass out.  But they didn't, and over the next 3 summers, my dad made deals to help with the mowing and maintenance of camp and my mom -- a cosmetology student at the local community college -- sold hundreds of boxes of cookies to help defray the cost of a week or two at camp.  Literally, one summer, I am fairly certain the CJC Bulldog and Lady Bulldog basketball teams paid my way in mountains of Thin Mints.  It slowed them on the court a bit, but their cookie addictions helped change and shape my life.

My camp was forced to close when I was 14 due to financial constraints, and my friends and I were sad.  I didn't realize at the time what it was that we were really losing.  To the naked eye, it's just a few acres with some cabins and a pool, but for me, I realize now, it was home. A beginning, a spark.  Smells, songs, tastes, sounds... little snippets of the past catch me in the strangest of times and will flash me back 268 miles and 25 years.  It's the only kind of time travel I believe in.

Here is Camp Cibola for me:
  • The smell of the Arts and Crafts building -- old stone and clay and tempra paint.
  • Archery with Ernie the Archery Dude.
  • My achievement beads -- specifically the crimson beads for bullseyes at Archery
  • the redwood deck outside the dining hall
  • mail call -- to this day, I still have yet to receive a letter from my mom while at camp.
  • the Canteen
  • trying to figure out all of the counselor's "real" names.  I'm still disappointed that B.G.'s real name was "Lanetta".  And "Froggy" will always be "Froggy".  Never Tracy.
  • sleeping in the covered wagons with the flaps raised.
  • sleeping in the covered wagon at the end of camp after the canvases were taken down
  • stealing plums from the Chief Crazy Horse's (the camp director's) trailer while we were supposed to be typing the camp newspaper.  It's funny now that she never stopped replacing them.
  • the mimeograph machine in the A&C building, cranking out copies of said newspaper.
  • red, yellow, green swim caps.  I'll never forget the day I earned my green cap and went off the diving board.  I learned how to both swim and dive at camp, skills I will always owe to Momma Duke's fierce determination to get me to "put your dang face in the water, Nazworth!"
  • the cinnamon and nutmeg smell of sweet potato muffins from the kitchen and peanut butter and honey on my pancakes.
  • Three Brownie Bites and a Prune-a-Day.  Le sigh.
  • The Buffalo Song
  • Sleep-overs and star-gazing in the valley meadow.  And the smell of freshly mown grass.
  • The cross-tie "bridge" on the forest trail.
  • Fruit-flavored snipe hunts armed only with my pillowcase and a broken flashlight.  I still don't know how the counselors got that snipe smell to permeate our adventures.  My only guess is sno-cone syrup.  Or Kool-Aid packets.  I was terrified and thrilled all at once. 
  •  skits and songs at the ampitheatre.
  • red sashes on the color guard at flag ceremony and complete silence at flag before singing Taps.
  • Kelly, the lifeguard, making friendship bracelets at the pool every day.  She held them in place with a band-aid, and she had a weird tan line where the band-aid was every day.  Now, I realize that maybe it wasn't the best idea for her to be crafting while guarding, but back then, she was just plain cool.
  • platform tents
  • the god-awful smell of the latrines and the intense heat and humidity of the showerhouse.
  • Ivory soap in panty hose hanging from the trough sink.
  • one-match fires
  • chicken pot pie and macaroni and cheese cooked over the campfire.
  • Greens and whites, knee socks and hats.
  • canoeing across Lake Greenbelt with the staff when I was a P.A.T.  Then into town for Blizzards and Chinese Fire Drills on Main Street.
  • Christel, Sarah, Erin, and Cara -- my camp buddies.
  • Being severely homesick the first night only to realize that being homesick was a drag.
  • aluminum foil boats with candles lighting the pool.
  • the first s'more of the summer
  • the last song of the summer... "mmm-hmmm... I want to linger..."
About 12 years ago, I took another of my camp friends (from my 2nd camp), Courtney, to see my old camp.  Even though it'd been closed and the land sold, no one developed it.  We hopped the fence, and after being closed for a decade, it was like looking at a skeleton of someone I loved.  The structures were still there, but the beauty, the spirit, the essence... had died long before.  They now only existed in some film I never took the time to develop and the memories, so clear in my heart.  I thought for a moment that I would simply sit down and fall apart.  But I didn't.  I walked her all over that camp, risking snakes in the grass and a nice trespassing charge, just to paint a picture of the place I loved so dearly if only for a short time.  I knew that she was one of the only people who would understand this need to say good-bye.  In our 16 year friendship, I'd have to say that afternoon was one of my favorite moments; it was the melding of my old camp life and my new camp life. 

"Make new friends... but keep the old... One is silver and the other gold."

Saturday, August 6, 2011

On the Dangers of Nostalgia

Nostalgia is always a tricky thing for me. It's a fine line between visiting the past through a couple of fond memories and wallowing on your couch, scrapbook in hand, wishing for days and moments and people who are long gone.

I came home tonight from this summer's camp staff banquet, feeling especially nostalgic. I thought about writing a post about my first camp counseling experience from so long ago, but I am fully aware of the line tonight. And with just enough vodka in the freezer to free up both my tears and my dialing finger, I'm going to pass. Vodka and scrapbooks are a recipe for a sniveling disaster.

So maybe tomorrow. But if you get a phonecall in the middle of the night, don't judge. It's just the scrapbook talking.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


In case you don't live in Texas, or in case you live here but are a hermit, we're having a heat wave.

And it IS a heat wave. And it IS bad.

And if you didn't know it's bad, you should check out my Facebook wall. There are literally dozens and dozens of posts referring to the unholy temperatures. Not to mention the twenty -- I repeat, TWENTY -- pictures of people's car thermostats as visual proof of Mother Nature's Reign of Terror. (That's what I'd name this heat wave if I were a meteorologist here in the Dee Eff Dub because they all name serious, or allegedly serious, weather systems).

Anyway, here's my thought.

Stop it. Seriously. Stop it, Joe Public. Is there nothing more interesting to talk about than the heat? And what are you hoping to accomplish by asking me questions like, "Can you believe this heat?"

Really. What am I supposed to say to that?

Of course I can believe it. I HAVE SKIN DON'T I? Skin that's now melted onto my black leather carseats. Those were a genius idea, by the way.

The passive-aggressive side of me wants to just sit on my car and take pictures of the temperature every hour until others are as annoyed as I. But I won't. Because today, after 10 minutes of back to school shopping, I gave up and found myself writing a post on my wall about the heat. That's when I realized that it might not be people's fault. The heat has literally zapped them of all neurological coherence.

Someone asked me today how we coped at camp all summer. Well, it's like a no-hitter in baseball -- you just don't effing talk about it. Sure it was hot, but when you start assigning actual numbers to it, it worsens by 1000%. I used to work at a camp with no air conditioning. Some of my friends are currently volunteering there now, as I write, during Mother Nature's Reign of Terror. Can you imagine? I hope like Hell they're staying off of Facebook. Talk about irrational rage; there's nothing like being the one to burst the temperature no-talk bubble out there.

So here's my pledge. I will not entertain any more discussions about your disbelief of the heat. I will continue to refuse to post pictures of my car's thermostat. And I will still continue to be friends with all of my heat-zapped friends. No matter how crazy Mother Nature's hold over you may be.