Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Why Aunt Bea Can't Make Pickles (And Other Mysteries of My Summer)

Some of you don't know this yet, but you make a lot promises to yourself once you anticipate the heady cocktail that is equal parts Empty Nest Syndrome and Public School Teacher's Summer Vacation. On paper, however, it looks like the last and very sad Bucket List of a person who aims only for the lowest hanging fruit, due to its complete lack of anything interesting or worth doing. Of course, it must also be said that this same list was compiled by a shell shocked adult who spent the last 10 months waiting for permission to use the bathroom. Because they were serving time in the pen busy teaching someone's littlest angel how to read or multiply. It bears consideration. Be gentle with me.

So this might explain how some of the following items--both crucial and trivial--landed on my Summer "To Do" list.

1) Start running again. Let's avoid a legalistic application of the word running since that conjures unnecessarily flattering visuals of Jackie Joyner Kersee which don't apply to me. What I'm doing involves walking the curving portions of the nearby university's track complex and then sprinting the "straights". Who are we kidding? It's less like sprinting and more like hurrying. Carefully. As if I am carrying a priceless crystal bowl filled with angrily swimming piranha. It's all about the baby steps.

2) Blogged more.

3) More yoga. I absolutely have begun practicing more than ever before. Somewhere between 5-6 classes per week. Flying Scissors, anyone?

4) Read more books. Before summer happened, I ritually blamed work for getting in the way of my lifelong book habit. Once I packed up my old classroom, I've found that I can point an accusing finger at Facebook, blogs (other people's...not mine) and my oldest friend--television-- for drastically impeding  my literary intake this summer. I think I read 13 books last summer and I only read 10 this time around. However, it's important to remember that blogs are writing and all television is also writing except you read it with your ears, so we're all even on that count.

5) Buy all new school clothes/shoes. I've found a couple of clothing websites that seem to comply with our district's new "work appropriate"jihad style prohibitions prescription for teachers. My personal version is a hybrid of casual and professional while also being comfortable. Not quite pajama comfortable so I appear to be settling in on the sofa with a tube of raw cookie dough waiting for a "Facts of Life" marathon, but definitely something that works for me mainly because I don't want to cry when I put it on. Now all I have to do is find footwear that does the same. Unfortunately, our district seems to be conflicted as to appropriate foot coverings for teachers during the hellishly hot months of August and September (also April, May and June). The arguments over, "Is it a sandal or is it a flip-flop?" have shamefully dominated more administrative meetings in our area than I care to count.  I'm going to let those jagweeds downtown worry about whether my shoes slap my heels when I walk across the room or whether they have a strap across the back or are mostly made out of rubber. I've too busy teaching my 8th graders about the importance of Atticus Finch as a male role model.

6) Changed the batteries in my bathroom scales. Something's afoul with those scales and I'm tired of having a bi-polar experience every time I step on them. One minute the numbers on the digital read out would suggest that I have a couple of anvils stuffed into my pants pockets. Five minutes later I have apparently lost the kind of weight that it would take three violent bouts of food poisoning and a water pill to pull off. It's maddening.

7)  Make homemade salsa. Since February, I have had Pinterest-infected hallucinations where I am making my own salsa and then getting so good at it that by Christmas, I have only to invest in a few dozen Ball jars and some festive ribbon to have my yearly neighbor/friend holiday gift conundrum solved. Unfortunately, this seemingly simple and enjoyable project has proved a bridge too far for yours truly. Not only have I not done this or even looked into what making it might entail, but I haven't even used the food processor this summer. It's too much like cooking and with the current heat wave afflicting our state, the mere thought makes my brain all hurt-y.

8) Pervasive Mystery A: After a comprehensive study of "The Andy Griffith Show" involving TVLand's Morning Lineup and my own boxed sets of Seasons 1-4, I have come no closer to understanding why Opie Taylor's Aunt Bea can fry a chicken, mash a potato, serve up buttery homemade biscuits and bake the hell out of a pie, but can't seem to make a decent pickle that doesn't taste like it was boiled in a pot of ant spray. It's a real puzzler.

9) Pervasive Mystery B: Why is it that every time I stumble across unwarranted and hostile diatribes written by Facebook trolls, they are almost always rendered in the most excruciatingly inarticulate examples of spelling, grammar and basic punctuation. "YOUR AN IDOIT AND I BLAM ALL THE WORLDS TORNADOSS ON OBAMA. IT HIS FALT THE FLOODS TO  AND U CAN CHEK IT ALL ON SNOPS COUSE IT ALL TRUE." 

I'd cry if I weren't already laughing so hard.  What did you do this summer?


  1. But did Atticus Finch ever wear flip-flops? That is the real question.

  2. This has truly been The Lost Summer, hasn't it? Don't feel bad. I'm still looking for July.

    We've had a total of TWO tomatoes from our garden, thanks to unrelenting rain and odd bouts of cloudy weather, cool weather, then heat waves. It's been abusive.

    I have read ZERO books, thanks to a total lack of desire and a case of what can only be described as ADD. I can't focus on anything for more than two minutes.

    I, however, have made a ton of pickles. Refrigerator pickles. I don't can because that is way too worky. I've pickled green beans for Bloody Marys, made hot sweets, garlicky dills, and made my kids happy.

    I have a very easy salsa recipe if you want it. So good, there won't be any to can.

  3. The fact that you mentioned The Pickle Story is sort of creepy, since I was just thinking about that episode this morning. Very strange. It popped into my head while I was pondering the ethics of entering my Texas brother-in-law's outstanding dewberry jelly in the Great State Fair of OH!-klahoma's Creative Arts competition, which is restricted to Oklahoma residents only. As you probably know, Andy and Barney faced a similar moral crossroad w/r/t/ the store-bought pickles they used to replace Aunt Bea's kerosine cucumbers. They, of course, did the Right Thing. I, on the other hand, have decided to take the other road. My b-i-l desperately needs the affirmation of a blue ribbon right now. Miss Clara has plenty.

  4. Reading with your ears. Ha ha! I wish I'd had that argument to throw at my mom when she would make me stop watching TV.

    This summer has been a peaceful interlude. Last summer was a nightmare after our son was hospitalized in May and his long, slow recovery. Next summer we'll be sending another child off to college, and summer-before-college summers are never any fun. So I am happy that this summer has been relatively uneventful.

  5. Canning salsa is overrated--turns out you have to COOK it and the best salsa is NOT COOKED.
    I read pretty well, traveled quite far and didn't write nearly as much as I wished. Nor did I run much or far.

  6. Summer is not over for me and I resent the implication it is :) It's been a big summer and I'm pretty relieved it's winding down a bit. Got a sunburn yesterday kayaking, so you know I'm enjoying the weather.

  7. "less like sprinting and more like hurrying"

    ok, that is seriously funny.

    Come to Austin and I'll show you how to make some damned good hot sauce. I can hardly look at store bought anymore. I was taught by a mex-american state trooper (and uncle to the little guy Rico on Modern Family who is from CS).

    As for reading, I'm embarrassed by how my log stacks up against yours: somehwere in the -1 to 0 range thanks to scrabble, FB and helping my son move away from home (which may or may not involve tears).

  8. I concur with Green Girl in Wisconsin re: the hot sauce. Fresh, not cooked or canned. Though I often blacken the jap peppers.

  9. I actually did quite a bit of reading this summer, mostly because I was trapped for long stretches on airplanes. I have another week before school starts and am fortunate that the German school where I work really could care less what teachers wear. Miraculously, the children are still somehow being educated.

  10. oops, that should read, "....couldn't care less what teachers wear..."

  11. I read a good number of books - only because I have a habit of doing nothing but sitting and reading when while I take carloads of children (not all my own) to the pool, which has become known as my excuse to do nothing but sit & read.
    I don't like jarred salsa either.


Be nice. It's not as hard as it sounds.