Saturday, August 18, 2012

Guess What? Chicken Butt : Random Thoughts on the Road Ahead

"Teachers go back on the 20th and classes start one week later."

 I wish I had a dollar for every time I've uttered that last phrase lately. Like a lobotomized robot who's been force-fed Prozac (which would take some doing because you'd have to be really strong to pry apart its can-opener jaws, but who cares because this post is not about robots --surprise!)--it's become my doomsday mantra. An dutiful air-raid siren of words that I repeat with emotionless facility every time someone asks. There's bad feeling aplenty, as one might imagine, but it's best not to expend the energy crying over it now. I'll need it all later in order to resist going on a shooting spree after being auditorily claw-hammered by a parent's inability to speak using simple subject/verb agreement and an inside voice.  Some of whom will likely show up to Meet The Teacher Night looking like a first round draft pick for the Gary Busey/Snookie Lovechild Olympics. Classes haven't started yet, but my brain is already in pieces and because of that, this post is going to unfold similarly.

1) Pardon my food baby and cankles. In other words,  I did not succeed in my attempts to lose the 10-12 pounds necessary to exit the self-imposed cone of shame I've forced on myself of late. It appears as though I'm going to return to school/work looking like I've spent the summer living in one of those tragic veal-inspiring pens for young cows while enjoying a diet rich in diabetic-flavored cupcakes, pork cracklins' and Big Red. I'm sorry, pants. I've failed you once again.

2) I'm wondering if it's too late for the school district to restructure my contract to include pauses in the day for naps. Half the walkie-talkies (used for emergency communication) in our building are broken and since we serve a population of children whose unchecked aggression is only encouraged by their low expectation-having families, I would also like to request some form of portable self-defense. Complimentary packs of Chinese throwing stars or maybe a blow-dart gun loaded with napalm. Otherwise, I'll be forced into fashioning the arm of my big paper-cutter into a scimitar. Welcome to Thunderdome. Confront at your own risk.

3) If I thought it might work I would postpone the inevitability of summer's end by scheduling surgery where I donated one of my wine-soaked kidneys to anyone would would take it. But for reasons made evident in the description of said kidney, I've been advised against it.

4) In other health-related news? Welcome to Hot Flash City. I'm the mayor.

5) The youngest son leaves for college tomorrow. We're swimming in a gravy boat of sad around here and as I write, the sky is crying too. If I wasn't writing this anonymously, I'd post a picture of him here. I miss the days when I could do that.

6) I have to add that our district has decided to adopt a "get tough" policy, but it's not about bullying. Or cheating. Not on drug/alcohol possession, weapons, or student discipline or even parental accountability. Nope. The scourge currently dragging our public schools down to a third world status is..... the teacher dress code. Of course! Forcing teachers back into neckties and panty hose is going to erase that achievement gap in record time! By all means allow the female students to wear neon bikini tops instead of bras underneath cheap cotton uniform shirts and-- for the love of God-- PLEASE don't stop a mom from visiting at lunch wearing broke-ass house slippers, see-through Dora the Explorer pajama pants and a bedazzled shirt that says "BEER ME!" Instead? Taking away my ability to wear jeans one extra day each month is somehow going to turn the "lame and halt" into National Merit Finalists. Our delusional district actually believes that parents and students look to us as models of behavior, dress and speech and that --one day--it will pay off. I've got news. I could show up wearing a floor length nun's habit and conversing like some Masterpiece Theater actor and nothing is going to change. It's like expecting to fly coach but wearing your church clothes to the airport in the hopes that you'll get bumped to first class. It never happens. Ditto for the children of parents who think that is a place you can get to by car.

7) Just thinking about #2 and #6 makes me crazy. Not authentically crazy like the type that causes you to drive your car to the store naked (Poor Randy Travis!), or in a diaper (Poor astronaut!) or where you claim that there's a tumor made of meatloaf in your brain and it sings old Glen Campbell songs to you when you're trying to sleep. But more like the gently daffy double rainbow type of non-dangerous imbalance where you cry a lot every time you push your cart past the grocery store's school supply aisle, order alarming quantities of unicorn figurines and Marie Osmond dolls from the Home Shopping Network and then arrange them into families....or make homemade sno-cones from Thera-flu and that excess frost scraped off of a bag of frozen okra. Yeah. That kind of crazy.

8) I'm so excited about the fall television lineup that I've marked the season premieres on the calendar typically reserved for PTA meetings and pediatric appointments. It's sad because it's true.

9) Despite all of the above, I've spent $500 of my own money to buy school supplies for my classroom.  That's also sad because it's true, but it probably means that I'm ready to try again. Pray that I can conduct myself with dignity and respect, no matter what happens. And that whenever you hear a mutual exchange of gunfire in the vicinity, it won't be me. Probably.

Thursday, August 9, 2012



At the risk of revealing my exact location to those individuals who might turn around and show this blog to my employer, I'll just say that some people in the general region where I reside might refer to this particular moment in my life as "nut cutting time".  Others with more delicate sensibilities would call it "The Eleventh Hour". To me the next eleven days more accurately resemble a sad and panicked ON ramp into nine months of H-E double Hockey Sticks. That's right. It's time to go back to school. I could be wrong, but I'm using last year as my predictor and since I'm looping up with this same set of inmates--from 4th to 5th grade--I feel safe in the assumption that there is little I can do to escape all the crazy that's going to come raining down on me in Biblical proportions.

I have a lot to do in the short amount of free time I have left: 1) Finish Stephen King's "11/22/63",  2) clean out my closet,  3) lose 10 pounds, 4) move the youngest son into his new college home and 5) learn how to make popsicles out of Robitussin for those especially frustrating work days when simply nothing seems to be going as planned and the prospect of taking an all expense paid vacation to the Manson Family Compound seems like a viable alternative.

Like many other teachers, I've spent the last couple of weeks getting caught up on self-maintenance so that it doesn't cost me a sick day later on when I'm not so much sick as I am parked in a waiting room with bad wallpaper and raggedy issues of Highlights and Consumer Reports. So yesterday I drove myself and a questionable looking mole to the dermatologist where the traditional wait time is usually so lengthy that whatever skin infirmity you think you might have has for sure already morphed into full blown melanoma by the time you actually see the doctor. Upon reading that last sentence I feel I need to clarify that I had a mole growing on my arm that I was concerned about. I did not provide automotive transport for a strange looking mammal belted into the seat next to me. Because that would be weird. Moles don't go to the dermatologist.

                                                  MOLE: NO   MONKEY: YES

My friend Mrs. G recently related a tale about her great-uncle and his Capuchin monkey named Judy. I insist you click over and read it --right after you read this. Anyway, her tale brought to mind my own monkey story. Everyone should have a monkey story. I'm completely serious.  Good stories usually have a beginning, middle and an end. This one? Does not. Because of all the parts where I would typically write pertinent information--but instead am forced to write I DON'T KNOW due to crucial facts that I lack. Trust me--there are more of those spots than there should be. Anyway, here goes.

When I was little I had a much-older-than-me (13 years) cousin who was either drafted or elected to go to Vietnam. I offer both scenarios because....I DON'T KNOW which is true because I was a little kid.
Anyway, when this cousin (I'll call him Adam) came back he had a Silver Star and all kinds of fascinating half-stories about mysterious bath houses where women were paid dollar bills to walk on your back in their bare feet which my grandmother--who didn't even like it when you played cards in her house because of possible gambling--didn't like. I say half-stories because that's about all my sister and I were able to hear before my grandmother hushed him up. Insert another I DON'T KNOW here since I never heard what else he did there. 

Anyway, one day Adam came by with what he said was a "gift" for my grandfather. Later, I learned that--aside from the normal kind of present which comes wrapped and can mostly be counted on to smell good--receiving a gift from your grandson who is still not quite the same person after Vietnam can really mean that he needs to park his squirrel monkey at your house for awhile. The same squirrel monkey that seemed so cute and a really, really good idea to buy at the time but which now makes an unholy mess and mostly just smells bad. Oh yes--and he bites when you pick him up. 

"Happy Birthday, Pops! His name is Hambone.  Say, where do you keep your band-aids?"

My sister and I already loved visiting our grandparents, but they just had one television which was frequently tuned to the news or Lawrence Welk and most forms of entertainment were exhausted pretty quickly there, so you can imagine the unbridled excitement we felt over the prospect of a monkey playmate right there in the house. However, our dreams of dressing Hambone in baby clothes and cunning hats, carrying him on our shoulders or teaching him to eat with a fork were dashed when we realized that Hambone was going to be the kind of pet you mostly just looked at due to his predilection for grabbing your nearest appendage--usually a finger-- with his tiny monkey hands and sinking his needle-like teeth into them.

Sure, it was entertaining to watch him eat with his fascinating fingers or imagine what he was thinking as he watched us with his glittery black eyes. His expressions were inscrutable which made it tempting to put small items close enough to the chicken wire in the hopes that he would take whatever it was and turn it over and study it the way a human would do. Things got really exciting when it was time to clean out his cage because Hambone had to be removed so that fresh shavings and newspaper could be spread on the bottom of the cage and the old poopy liner carried out --and hopefully-- burned. This required the use of heavy falconer's gloves for the person holding him. If all went well, he would sit quietly on the curtain rod and not choose that moment to release the contents of his digestive tract nor resist the attempts to put him back into what must have been his own personal Hanoi Hilton when the time came.

Both my grandparents were scrupulously clean people, but my grandmother was more vocal about her simmering hatred for Hambone and--truth be told--his entertainment value didn't play out nearly as well as we children had thought. Also? The smell. I won't camp too long on the description, but if you can imagine a baby's fully loaded diaper dipped in a mixture of hot mayonnaise, pencil shavings and old celery, you'll have an idea of what an assault the monkey's presence had become when it came to our olfactory sensibilities. Sorry for over sharing. The standard for cleanliness was also at stake and people were running out of fingers. This--we came to understand--wasn't going to end well.

One day we came to visit and Hambone was no longer in residence. The enameled table which normally held his cage now featured a doily and a non-ironic bowl of bananas which had no connection to the departed guest. Or so they said

There were vague explanations about where Hambone had gone, though I'm almost positive that no foul play was involved, but where exactly had he gone? I DON'T KNOW. The End.

See? I told you the ending was inadequate.

Anyway, I'm going to try to be positive about the school year despite my feelings regarding the dreadful way the last one unfolded. It may require starting every morning by playing "Eye of the Tiger" on the classroom boom box and possibly something involving a starter pistol.

And --of course-- alcohol popsicles.