Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy 2008

Let's see what happens this year....

Time for a few new resolutions, readers. Please feel free to spend the next 12 months weighing in and kicking my butt if I falter at all.

  • Finish Killing Julie by March 29. I'm at 186 pages now and about 59,000 words. The two leads have fallen in love, the antagonist is about to go off the deep end, and Julie remains dead.
  • Get rolling on finding that "right" doctorate program... again!
  • Exercise. Not just think about it but actually do it.
  • Continue to eat more vegetables and drink good wine.
  • Experiment in the kitchen and move beyond the usual tried-and-true dishes.
  • Learn how to download the pics from our digital camera and... better yet, print them out!
  • Keep writing! I have two more novels in my brain now, one which is currently nameless and the other tentatively dubbed Courting Selina.
  • Go dancing again. And again. And again!

Hmmm.... not much this time around. I have other minor plans: grow my hair long again, finish cleaning out the basement, continue scrapbooking, and figure out how to play Second Life.

It looks like the year will be busy enough, really!

See "yunz" all soon!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Two and counting

Chaos and I re-decorated his little tree today so that Santa could leave presents under it tomorrow night. Gavie's into minimalism this year: no ornaments, no garland, just lights. All ornaments that are put on his tree by others are removed by him within minutes. Since he's out with the big guy tonight, the tree has remained decorated for the last three hours.

We are now officially ready for Christmas.

Just in time, for tomorrow is December 24. The Day My Dad Died. Days like that deserve all caps, you know.

At the risk of sending some into conniptions, I'm going to stand by my original belief that his passing was a wonderful Christmas gift. He was done suffering, done "living" in that comatose state, done having morphine rubbed into his skin because he could no longer take it orally. A wonderful gift to see him at peace. A horrible gift to have that legacy on Christmas Eve, if I may be so selfish.

For the last month, since a bit before Thanksgiving actually, I've been bouncing between my usual child-like wide-eyed absolute love of the holidays and Scrooge-like hatred of all things merry. I said several times that Christmas couldn't come and go fast enough, dammit.

But now that it's just about here, I'm glad that my misery was ignored by the heavens.

The eight-foot-wonder is up and has remained decorated all month. Captain Chaos's own small tree is still standing. As of last night, all of the presents are wrapped. Cookies were made in a marathon bake-off yesterday; and my handmade Christmas cards, featuring Chaos himself, went out on time. I even managed to string lights on the front porch's swag this year.

All that remains, really, are for the stocking to be hung by the chimney with care tomorrow night.

Gavie's at that perfect age where everything is real, and I love it. How can I be remotely miserable when he's so excited about Santa coming? Yesterday, when Santa rode around the neighborhood on a firetruck and handed out stockings full of candy, Gavie was in heaven, and so was Mommy. His conviction that it really was Santa on that truck was what I needed today.

It will be a good Christmas.

Friday, December 14, 2007


When you write, you weight the words you use, as well as those your characters use. You possess the ability to create and destroy at will. You can build worlds or annihilate them. Share secrets or keep them.

Those letters on a page wield a frightening amount of power.

In history this term, we talked about the way that movable type and that the print press allowed ideas to spread with almost unchecked freedom. Now, the computer replicates that power. With the click of a mouse, this blog goes to scores of folk -- giving them the choice to read or delete at will.

But what do we say. Or not say?

The old cliche of least said, soonest mended comes to mind.

Goes against the computer age, doesn't it? This is, after all, the era of blogs like mine. Some better, some worse, but all of them published with an agenda on the writer's part. We say it all. We blurt it out. We engage is verbal exhibitionism. (Some of us, anyway.)

But what about the words we choose to speak? The ones we choose to withhold?

I think about my father often, especially as the second anniversary of his death. I think about what we never said. He was a quiet man, and -- despite my friends who will say otherwise -- I am a reserved woman. I play it close to the vest, to use another cliche.

Somewhere in my brain is the idea that losing a loved one means that I should change my behavior. Does that mean I should talk more? Share my feelings more? I'd rather not, thank you.

What my father and I never spoke of was death. We never found it necessary to examine our views on what that moment would be like for him, nor did we think it imperative to discuss what came after. What was the point? Neither of us saw one, so we opted for silence.

It was comfortable, that quiet. Lovely, actually.

Two years later, I'm about the same in that respect. If I have nothing to say, I say nothing. If I have something to say, I'm able to choose between speech and silence.

Not everything that I want to say has been said yet. Perhaps that's why I write, to get the words out of my head and make room for more. The older I get, the more words I find and the richer the thoughts and the more varied their contexts. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

With age comes wisdom. (Forgive my use of cliches, I find them ironically amusing for this blog's entry -- being that I'm talking about words themselves and the power behind them.)

So I'll say what I must and keep the rest for later. That way, when I say it, I mean it.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


Last night about 1 a.m., the big guy woke me up, asking what we needed to do. Our little one was in his room having a coughing fit that, if I wasn't used to his annual bout with croup, would have terrified me. A gagging, choking, miserable cough due to a sinus infection from hell is nothing in comparison to that awful barking cough we get to hear each January or February.

So I held Gavie as he cried, rubbed his back, and soothed him, while my husband set up the water vaporizer and plugged in the greatest invention of all: the Vicks Plug-In. Insert one vapor strip and fill the room with the thick scent of Vicks Vapor Rub. The cat loves it.

"Mommy, I want to sleep in your bed," he whimpered when I said I'd stay with him until he fell back to sleep. Who can argue with that? Not me. We moved operations into my room, and for the next seven hours I laid there half-asleep listening to Chaos alternate between sleeping quietly, snoring, and coughing.

And here I am now, in my kitchen, enjoying the silence while my two boys sleep upstairs.

And here I am now, thinking about how easy last night was. All I had to do was hold my baby boy and just be there. My back hurts from having a lanky four-year-old crowd me in bed, and I'm exhausted from hardly sleeping. I'm probably going to be a bit of a grouch today from the two. Gavie's going to be a bear himself; he always is when he's sick.

But someday, I know, he's going to come home crying because the girl he has a crush on crushed him. Someday he'll tell me that I can't do anything to help because I don't understand. Someday he's going to be too big for me to cuddle and soothe quite so easily.

Thus today we'll make some cookies from pre-made dough and drink some cocoa and watch a few Christmas specials on DVD. We'll enjoy being miserable because this is easy misery. Really. I can always take a nap later. I can get someone to crack my back into place. I can't turn back time, though.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Nearing the Finish Line

Some days things just plain go right. Some days are so good that, despite the chaos that probably should make you a raving lunatic, you can't stop smiling and even what goes wrong seems right. I love days like this.

The Christmas decorations are still only 3/4 finished over here. I still have three big Martha Stewart-esque swags left to hang in the house. Tried to start tonight, but after the first one came crashing down thanks to the removable hook removing itself, I decided that tomorrow was just as good a day to decorate as today.

This evening, Captain Chaos was banned from touching the Christmas tree until he's ten after three (thankfully cheap) resin bears ended up in the garbage after "jumping" off of the top of a two-foot gingerbread house that no longer lights up because of the stuff he jammed through the windows when we weren't looking.

Actually, it wasn't until I found three breakable Keepsake ornaments in Chaos's toy box that the ban went into effect. (For the record, two of the ornaments suffered nary a scratch, but Bugs Bunny will require Super Glue surgery once I find his eas.)

Three of the four CD mixes that I burned the other day are duds, as I discovered this morning on the drive to work. For whatever reason, they just won't play. That was just plain irritating. After all, if I have to drive to work in snow -- surrounded by people who forget how to drive the moment the skies turn white -- at least I could have some music to soothe my nerves.

I scorched the rice while making dinner. Plum forgot about it for just five minutes too long. I think it'll be easier to buy a new pot then scrape out the old one.

Frankly, I'm okay with all of it.

You see, readers, nothing can faze me right now, not even the fact that I shrunk my favorite cotton sweater in the dryer, for the writing gods and my inspirational little muses have been kind to me this week, particularly today as -- on the ride home -- I finally got the final scene for my two leads figured out (they didn't make it easy, they're both rather hard-headed).

I have my entire novel fleshed out at last. The outline is no longer a skeleton. All I need now is the time to get what's scribbled on reams of paper onto the electronic page.

Thus I offer a glass of wine to the deities, perhaps I'll pour a bit onto the ground for them as I've been told that the ancient Greeks once did.

A toast, good readers, to the gods who give me reason to smile!

Even as I'm disentangling myself from the *&$%# swag that landed on my head...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

44,373 words

In just a few days, Nanowrimo ( will wrap up for another eleven months. For the last 30 days, as part of a worldwide writing "contest," I've been pounding out the novel that's been in my head for too long.

Third time is a charm, readers... I'm just a few thousand away from the 50,000 word challenge laid down by the Nanowrimo writing gods.

My novel Killing Julie is taking off. (finally!!!) I know who's alive, who's dead, and who's guilty. I know what direction each character needs to take and how to get there.

If you want a teaser, check out while you can. It's the earliest version of the story that exists; and while things have changed a good bit since I started on-line, it's safe to say that the general storyline is still intact. I'm going to take the site down within the month, though, so read it while you can.

I'm going to start seeking an agent as soon as I finish, and I've chosen March 2008 as my deadline. Why March? Why not?

It's a good month for me: that's when my Gavie was born.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

November 22, 2007

Two years ago, on Thanksgiving, my father made his last trip to my house. He and mom came up for dinner, then spent the night. That night he gave her the Christmas presents we'd ordered for her over the Internet.

"I don't know if I'll be able to give this to you on Christmas," he told her. It was the only time I ever heard him talk of what he might not see.

As you know, he wasn't able to after all.

Today is the first holiday that my mother will host since his diagnosis in April 2003.

The holidays always lead one to think about what one has, is thankful for, and even what is wished for. This holiday I'm a bear, and I admit it. I don't want today, I don't want this weekend. I want it to be the weekend so that I can pretend Thanksgiving didn't consist of five of us around a table that used to hold ten or more.

The last time my mother had dinner at her house, my father and grandfather were alive and my brother was married. My aunt came over with her boyfriend-now-husband. Her daughter stopped over, as well. The house was noisy and rather chaotic as my then-two-year-old ran about getting into everything and the men watched football with the volume too high. The table was overloaded and everyone had to squeeze into their seats.

I know. Time marches on. New traditions need to be made, old ones need to be modified. I'm not going to fight the inevitable. It's really all just a matter of perspective.

I'm not the woman I was before Dad got sick. I'm going to start my new job on Monday and meet people who know me as I am today, not as who I was and who I became. Nursing a loved one towards death forces change, despite one's best efforts.

My brother changed, too, though I suspect much more subtly. While I was busy learning how to say "no" and learning how to trust myself, he was examining his life. A month ago he made the decision that he owed his son more then parents who happened to live in the same house. While divorces are never pleasant under any circumstance, I find myself hard-pressed to condemn anyone to live in a house where walking in the front door at the end of the day does not bring a sense of peace.

And here I am, a few hours away from going to my mother's and trying not to compare what was to what is. I'll do okay, I'm sure. I always manage, though I'm saying it without the same frustration that I once did.

I've often remarked to my students that we need to prepare them for a world where bosses won't always guide them through the rough spots and where employers will expect much more then teachers sometimes do. When they hit a wall, they need to find a way to get around it. Preferably intact.

And so it's Thanksgiving, and as I sit at my laptop in the kitchen and watch my son eat play with his toys and watch Playhouse Disney, I think about how tiny he was when he was born, just a bit over four pounds. Gavie came to us eight weeks early, and for 32 days we lived at the hospital and waited for him to outgrow his apnea and learn how to swallow.

I have a husband who lets me write at will, who encouraged me to go back to school, and who said "go ahead" when I took the FMLA to care for my father.

I've a beautiful house, a career with potential, and family and friends who I can count on.

There's much to be thankful for, obviously, and this is a tiny start to the list. I'd like to add one more, one that has often earned a few confused looks. I'm thankful for going through everything that I have gone through, both good and bad. I'm thankful, I once told my students, that I was able to be there for my father.

That's not the part where they ask if I lost my mind. That comes when I tell them that an experience which turns their world upside down is something I hope they have. It has nothing to do with wishing them difficulty, but everything to do with the way that one changes as a result.

Somewhere, in the boxes that I brought home from work, I have a wise little phrase, which I'll paraphrase until I can dig it out: our character is determined by how we respond to those challenges that rise to meet us.

Happy Thanksgiving, readers.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Being a Good Parent

Perhaps you heard the screams of anger and frustration. Perhaps you wondered at the high-pitched wails. Perhaps not. They are, to a parent, rather common. You learn to turn them out eventually.

Captain Chaos might have finally mastered the arts of staying in his seat for the entire meal and washing his hands when told (without argument), but comprehending the cruelty of a mom who turns off cartoons deemed excessively violent.. well... we're still working on that one.

Four nights ago he was sent to bed without a story or song because, when I told him that Courage the Cowardly Dog was too violent, he went into hysterics and thought that things could be remedied by upending his container of wooden blocks.

The next night he again turned into a puddle of tears as I turned off The Simpsons when the mini-cartoon "Itchy and Scratchy" came on. I just don't believe that a four-almost-five-year-old can understand and appreciate social commentary. Call me crazy, but I think that he's missing the point of the excessive violence and why Bart and Lisa laugh so hysterically each time the cat is decapitated or tossed into the wood chipper.

In both cases, he screamed and cried and begged. In both cases, I held firm. The good news is that the second episode was both shorter and did not end in an early bedtime. (Apparently he learned from the previous night.)

Boundaries are interesting in my house. I tend to be quite permissive in many cases. Captain Chaos is allowed to jump on the family room couch, pile up the over-sized sofa cushions then leap into them, rearrange whatever unbreakable holiday decorations are up, and turn himself into a human mudball. When I come home to discover that he and Aunt Na have painted each other's faces with whatever Crayolas they could find, I laugh. There are designated shelves in the pantry and another in the fridge where Chaos can go help himself to any snack he wants at virtually any time of the day -- they are, however, chock full of healthy stuff.

You want to eat raw carrots fifteen minutes before dinner? Okay! How about some broccoli to go with it?

I think I'm doing okay. It's not easy, which is a given; but the results are worth it. He's a pleasant, well-mannered, intelligent little critter who never gives me much pause, even in public. Essentially, I try to let him be as much a kid as possible without disregarding those very necessary social conventions such as please and thank you and respecting other people's property.

We're working, however, on respecting his own property as today he was channeling his inner Pete Townsand-slash-Julius Sumner Miller: giving a wonderfully loud concert for me and the hermit crabs... then smashing his blue plastic guitar on the ground. Over and over and over.

He wanted to see what would happen, as the night before we were talking about how glass breaks more easily then plastic.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Unexpected

So about a year or so ago, I put my resume in for a position as a compliance officer for The Western School. Didn't get it. They filled it internally. No big deal.

I forgot about it, started to look for a doctorate that interested me, and decided to stay where I was at least until I earned my degree. Four years, probably five. Then, and only then, I'd decide what to do with my career.

Then at the end of September, just before I left for Louisville, KY, for one of the best econ conferences I ever attended, I got a phone call from friend Diane, who is the school's HR Goddess.

Send Tom your resume, she said. (Tom, incidentally, is my former boss from days gone by. We only parted employer-employee company due to the school itself going bankrupt.)

As soon as I get back, I'm leaving tomorrow for a conference, I told her. It needs some updating and I'm going to be on a plane in about 24 hours.

And so, the long and short of it: last week brought a "chat," not an interview in any traditional sense, and a job offer to teach English.

Having done my homework on the company (I admit it), accepting was an easy decision.

This past Monday, I gave my supervisor my resignation. I'll work until November 21, then begin my new job November 26.

Ever have one of those moments where you never see it coming?

Diane will tell you that I was -- for once -- shocked, speechless, and stunned. She laughed heartily at my inability to wrap my brain around the previous hours of that day.

A job? A new job? Leave my friends at work? Leave supervisors who have been nothing but fair, especially when it came to my dealing with my father's terminal cancer? Leave students that I know, whose lives I'm involved in?

The decision to leave my current job has nothing to do with any of them. What an incredible, fortunate thing to be able to say. It had nothing to do with them.

But the benefits offered, the room to grow professionally.... turning it down for the sake of social comfort? I haven't met a soul yet who said "stay for the sake of the people you like to hang out with." Friends, after all, are exactly that: friends. Geography is relative.

I've been a bit melancholy this week, now that the words have been said. Everything is final, now. The word is slowly spreading, though I haven't told my students yet. I will, of course. They deserve to hear it from me and not the grapevine.

You know, pardon the ego here, but this is the greatest feeling in the world. I apparently did something right seven years ago (seven!) when I originally worked for Tom. Seven years ago I made an impression, began my professional career in earnest. And now look at me: going back to work for the same man who gave me the chance to find my way in the classroom without fear of someone smacking me for approaching the lesson from a right-brained perspective.


As I would say to my students, with a self-deprecating grin, guess all that professional behavior paid off. Huh?

Monday, October 22, 2007

UPDATE to Recommended viewing

I just found this on-line:
CLICK HERE to watch Dr. Pausch's entire CMU speech.

The original post:

Dr. Randy Pausch will be on Oprah today.

You know, while I remarked in my previous post that I felt rather lost regarding the whole doctoral program change, I'm glad that I didn't let it knock me into inactivity.

The link that I included today takes you to the Post Gazette article which features a second article with Dr. Pausch. I happen to appreciate what his mother told him when he was getting rather upset over an exam:

"We know how you feel, honey, and remember, when your father was your age, he was fighting the Germans."

Puts things even further into perspective, doesn't it?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Square one

Duquesne University put the ILEAD program on hold. But those who read Ferocious Tigers already know that.

The more I think about it, the more I feel like someone set adrift. All that time searching, all that time thinking... and now what?

I start over, I guess. Visit the schools again and look at their programs. Already I feel some internal rebellion thinking about attending a school already crossed off of my list. Attend THAT school? Get a K-12 certificate? Again?! Be a principal or superintendent?

The urge to chew my arm off returns each time I think about it.

Driving home from Seton Hill, I left the radio off and thought long and hard tonight. I'm not going to rush into a new program; I'm going to take my time. In the meanwhile, I'm going to take some writing courses. I've never had but one, you know.

It ought to be interesting. I'm rather looking forward to it, to be honest. Maybe I can (finally) do something with my novel adventure, Killing Julie.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Finding my way

Since Dad died on Christmas Eve, this will -- technically -- be our third Christmas without him in two years. Numbers are odd, aren't they?

I've been thinking about language lately. Really, I should have said that Dad passed away, but that suggests peace to me. Death itself, I assume, was peaceful for him. For us, as you know, a relief.

We imbue words with so much power. Connotations trump denotations. When I write, I choose carefully and opts for those with the most emotion. When I teach, I aim for the same. To hell with neutrality.

I think I'm still angry.

I have that right. I claim that right, and I won't surrender it for the sake of being nice. Don't tell me that time makes it easier. It just makes it harder to remember events. Not emotions, however. Never emotions.

Since posting the article on CMU's Dr. Randy Pausch in September, I've been thinking more about the art of living. That's what it is, really. An art.

And so I flew to Louisville, talked boldly to strangers with the same interests, and dressed up because I wanted to. When I came home, I got rid of what I call my "thin" clothes -- classic, professional clothing that I wore pre-baby and kept because I plan to lose those last few pounds. (Let's face it, after four years, those pounds aren't going away. I'm going to finally dub them curves and go buy new slacks.)

If living is an art, then one needs to decorate. I tried new dishes in Louisville, and now find the processed meals at the local chain restaurants lacking more then ever. Love, Toni Morrison's latest in hardback, is on my bookshelf, just waiting for me to dive in; it's far from the usual romances I pick up.

Gavie and I are planning how we'll decorate the backyard with wildflowers and other fauna next summer. We're working on preserving seeds from his garden for the spring planting season. As we clean up the yard and prepare for the fall, we look for slugs and worms and are always very successful.

And I have my other blog, Ferocious Tigers, which is where I work on my roar.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


Little Captain Chaos is learning how to talk on the phone. Like his mom, he walks around the house while he talks, chattering away about all sorts of things while doing something else. He picks up the phone, asks one of us the number, dials, and starts talking.

"Hello, Gwammy? It's me... Nothing... Fuzz is eating... Yes... Good..."

About ten minutes later, he'll say good-bye and hang up.

Uncle Mikey is next. He gets to hear all about Gavie's stuffed animals.

Third will be Aunt Nana. He'll give her a dissertation on the flowers on our front porch.

Finally, the phone will begin to beep. Or, actually, stop beeping, a sure sign that Chaos has drained all power from the mystical device.

He may take after me when it comes to phone-talking, but he's all his dad when it comes to screwdrivers and hammers. At four, he can already operate both. When the phone stops working, he knows that the batteries are dead.

Dead batteries are remedied with a screwdriver (thankfully NOT a hammer, though that might be because we keep the hammers out of reach).

At four, he's already all legs and moves fast. For kicks, this last time, I just watched. I do that sometimes, just watch him and see what happens. I like to see how he problem-solves.

Gavie went right for the utility drawer and nabbed the screwdriver and two double-A batteries. I kept watching. Within minutes he had the back of the phone removed and the triple-A batteries removed...

Oh, don't worry, readers. It was a toy phone.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dying a Good Death

Dr. Randy Pausch spoke at Carnegie Mellon University yesterday, addressing his life as he prepares for his death. Within a few months, readers, it is likely that pancreatic cancer will claim him, turning him into another forgettable statistic.

It is unlikely, however, that those who were fortunate enough to know him will ever feel he's just another number or will ever forget him. After reading the Post-Gazette article on his presentation to the standing-room-only crowd, I doubt he'll be that to me either.

I'm currently teaching a psychology class where they're being put through the paces of goal-setting. I keep asking them for more details about their goals, pushing for them to make things concrete... and thus more attainable. Today I read them the article about him, discounting the fact that he bears the title of "CMU professor" because I don't want to give anyone reason to use his profession as an explanation for his achieving his goals.

It isn't, I told them, about titles. They don't mean a thing when it comes to your behavior.

Reaching your goals takes a high degree of discipline, regardless of your title or station in life. It takes a willingness to put yourself out there, to open up and say "here's my heart," and risk having it trod upon. Perhaps that's one of the reasons I exploded today in my English class. Why do people have to live down to the expectations of society? Why do they have to say "this is where I come from" and think that it's reasonable to repeat the cycle? All I want is for them to realize that they can do more then they realize.

Dr. Pausch is dying as admirably as anyone can. I hope that, when I'm his age, a young 46, I can look back at my life and find that I can go on with the same integrity he has today.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Site of the crash of Flight 93.
Shanksville, PA.

Six years later, a nation still mourns.
Six years later, we still find it incomprehensible.
Six years later, I look at my son and wonder when he'll ask:
Where were you, Mommy,
when they flew those planes into those buildings?
What was it like that day?
Were you with Daddy? Were you scared?
Those will be difficult to field, depending on his age, but I'll manage to answer.
I'll say something motherly and comforting
because that's my job
and I'm going to protect him for all I can,
for as long as I can.
It's that other question that will get me:
Why did they do that, Mommy?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Six-two-oh! Oh la la!

Six hundred and twenty points!

Glorious, glorious number! One step closer to fulfilling those admission requirements for Duquense University.

THAT number, by the way, is my math score on the GRE, which I took this past Saturday. I loathe those things, you know.

This was the celebratory e-mail sent to some:

OVER and DONE with. It took three long hours today. Somehow I did NOT get a headache, though I was so light-headed at one point I began to wonder about the policy on fainting at the keyboard.

For the record, I have never been this uptight in my life about academics and tests. Ever. I got a 620 on the math, if I remember correctly. Don't know what that means yet, to be honest.

As long as I don't have to square it, divide it, or find out what happens when it goes 50 mph in 20 minutes while my verbal score goes 49 kph in 30 minutes, I'm as happy as happy can be for now. Just wanted to let y'all know... and wanted to thank you for putting up with my nerves this week (some more then others).

Have a nice day! :)

(I know I will, now that I know it's an acceptable score for admission and that I needn't retake it!)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

When I grow up...

... I want to be a writer, a teacher.

Add one: a consultant.

Ponder this career: a teacher in the university, a writer whose focus is in education, and a consultant who works in the post-secondary world -- with emphasis in the world of for-profit education.

Golly, much better then my usual "everything" when asked what I want to do.

What am I going to write?
(The only answer to that, right now, is a shameless plug for Ferocious Tigers.)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Fifty-one weeks

There are moments, snapshots if you will pardon the cliche, where life stills and you see exactly what you were meant to see. You sit and barely breathe and take in the reality and wonder just how you were so fortunate.

Right now, was the rain splatters on the roof, as I sit comfortably at my computer, I find myself unable -- again -- to really describe what is, in essence, a week a econ camp. A week where I hand over exactly half of my vacation days and a good bit of money to volunteer as a company advisor. It is, I admit, a job that makes little sense to me at times. The surrender of time and money earn me the opportunity to sit through speeches that I've just about memorized, exhaustion, and a huge workload waiting for me upon my return to reality. I get the chance to work with teenagers who may or may not want to hear what I have to say. I set my wake-up calls for 7 a.m., roll into the college at 7:45, and do not stop for the next ten hours or so.

Only 51 weeks until I get to go back.

When I go back, I'll walk into the hospitality suite and see the people I've grown to know and love. We'll talk about out children and, in some cases, grandchildren. We'll update each other on jobs and life in general. It will be as if we'd never left.

When I go back, we'll find new ways to make each other laugh. This year we passed around brown lunch bags, preparing to hyperventilate when Jim began his training on Saturday. We hazed new-to-week-III'ers John and Jeremy by putting them in the center of the Market Game and "forgetting" to mention the rush of 200 students (though we did take their eyeglasses and name tags off to avoid injury). Scott managed to keep his composure during his Monday presentation, despite most of us standing in the back of the auditorium imitating elevator doors with our hands (long story). Deb and I discovered new ways to answer the phone in our hotel room (but that's all I'm saying there).

When I go back, we'll sit in the Bell Foyer at some point and listen to Guido play the piano, and I'll look around at the people and marvel at it all. Twenty-four people who help each other because they are there for the kids and not the glory of a computer-generated certificate come Friday night. Several of us have remarked on the camaraderie of our group, on the "magic" that seems to happen when we gather. There are neither cliques nor squabbles, there's never a moment of cruelty for the sake of a cheap laugh, and competition between the us is non-existent. These are good people that I volunteer with, I tell my family.

That's the magic, by the way. The way that everyone gives without taking.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Captain Chaos Strikes Again!

If you ask me just how tall little Chaos is, I can now tell you that he is exactly tall enough to begin dragging a kitchen chair over to the fridge and reach for whatever Forbidden Fruit sits atop it. Yesterday, it was Scotch Tape.

Eager to save a coloring book from the terror of a ripped page, he decided that tape was the answer. Eager to prove that "only four" is actually "already four" and that Mommy doesn't know what she is talking about when she says "no, I'll get it for you in a minute," Chaos took matters into his own hands.

The next thing I know, he is dragging a kitchen chair across the room and shoving it up against the fridge, climbing up, standing on tip-toe, stretching to reach...

He's just not quite tall enough, readers, to do more then curl his little hands around the top of the freezer door and pop the seal.

The next thing you see if my four-year-old hanging on, his little feet dangling, as the freezer door swings wide open.

It was, in his estimation, the coolest thing ever. When my heart starts beating again, I'll let you know if I second the motion.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Pennsylvania, Alabama, Italy, Oregon, San Francisco, Tennessee, and Maryland.

Parents who exchange stories and pictures and You Tube videos without ever holding their friends' children. Babies who will grow up knowing about but maybe meeting each other only once or twice -- until they are adults who can travel on their own. Best friends unseen for a decade who keep in touch, still able to talk about everything and laugh about how young we once were.

All only a click away.

God love the Internet. On-line we can share our lives. In blogs we can tell the world about exploits involving little pink dresses, college pranks, professional headaches and dreams, and our travels. We can go on about our children and their exploits as well, laughing at what was not exactly laughable at one point. A virtual gathering whenever and, thanks to wireless, wherever.

I can curl up on my couch with a cup of hot tea and a laptop, sending and receiving as I relax. No longer am I tied to a desktop computer and banished to the upstairs. It's not nearly as cozy as curling up with old-fashioned letter, such as my friend Vanessa still sends, but it's a close second.

Chantel's blog keeps me up-to-date on her lovely Penny, for whom I have a box of presents and will mail someday (just a little more space to fill first). Meanwhile, Jen sends photos of her darling Olivia, and I laugh when I see the undeniable family resemblance to the woman I started kindergarten with. Kirby kept me posted on his travels to China, while Josey sends e-mails guaranteed to earn a replay of WHAT?! Then she laughs and tells me it's the only way to get my attention. I retaliate, of course. That's what friends are for.

We make our own friends, but in truth we are really making new families. Few, if any, of us will have the luxury of raising our families and watching our children play with a gaggle of cousins. Not just on family vacations or when we have the time off to drive an hour or ten but whenever they want because the entire family lives within walking -- or shouting -- distance.

Gavie's growing up in a young neighborhood, with a dozen or so other children. On the Fourth he was able to run and play while we and the other parents sat and watched. It was all very picturesque.

I think, for the first time since moving here, I felt like we were home.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Another baby step.

I gave away my white and green doll's house today. I loaded it into the car and trucked it to my mother's, the intent being to give it to her neighbor's seven-year-old daughter. Due to a few other errands, it ended up sitting in my backseat for a few hours, baking in the sun. Getting in the car to make the final leg of the trip, I inhaled one more time, taking in the scent of warm wood. My memories stirred then, ones I gave little thought to recently.

When I was twelve, I took $22 of my hard-earned newspaper delivery money and plunked it down on a four-room assembly-required pressed-wood dollhouse. Dad and I put it together at the dining room table. Over the next year, I poured my heart into it, painting and decorating it. Then re-painting and re-decorating. I learned how to wallpaper, how to wield an X-Acto knife without losing any fingers, and how to "kit-bash." Most of the furnishings were re-upholstered, re-painted, re-something. I never met a kit I couldn't redesign. I also learned how to use Sculpy and Fimo, and soon my dollhouse was teeming with people and toys. Eventually I started selling my clay toys at a local miniature shop.

When I exhibited my dollhouse at the shop's annual show and sale, the raffle prize was a seven-room one-of-a-kind white and green dollhouse. My little brother and his friend, who were in sixth grade and looking to kill time, stuffed the raffle box. We took the house home that night.

Between the night I took the house home and the day I married, I practiced the art of Martha Stewart in miniature. I took a break from the clay and moved to needlepoint and tiny flower arrangements. The house still needed something, so I learned how to measure and cut and stain. Soon enough, every room had baseboards and moulding. It was lovely by the time I was finished with it.

Surprisingly, packing it away, as I moved into married life wasn't that hard. I hadn't put the same love into it as I had with the one my father and I built together. That, with it's sandpaper shingles and die-cut gingerbread, was infinitely the favorite. The smaller one was the one I took with me to my new house. The large one was "too big." I'd learned on that one, true; but how many of us treasure the workbooks we used in grade school?

The Mother's Day after Dad was diagnosed with cancer, I convinced the big guy to buy The McKinley dollhouse kit for me as a gift. I wanted to build something again, not just win by default. And I wanted to build it with my father. I wanted to spend the time with him like I had fifteen years earlier.

The kit is half-assembled and in my basement. Dad simply didn't have it in him to build, so I started the shell myself. The directions were -- are -- easy enough. But I just don't want to do it anymore. I don't want it anymore.

I want another dollhouse though; I miss the challenge of working in such small spaces with delicate materials. However, building, to me, will always be a father-daughter event -- and perhaps someday mother and son. Tomorrow, Gavie and I are going to put all of my birthday money on the (pre-built) house I've chosen. He and I are going to work on it together, though I'm limiting his input and keeping the hammers out of his hands.

So when I pulled that old cumbersome dollhouse out of the backseat today and gave it away, it was without much feeling at all, unless you count my eagerness to make room for the new and the chance to spend time with my son.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Ferocious, precocious, and four

The battle of bed continues. For some reason unbeknownst to us, the child has taken to loathing bedtime. Absolutely hating it. In his eyes, bedtime is overrated and useless. Something meant for the masses, the mortals... certainly not for him.

I know it's not fear. What make me so certain? Mainly because of the fact that, when he gets out of bed and runs into my bedroom (where I sit and write each night while waiting for him to fall asleep), he is trying very hard not to laugh. He's actually trying to look scared and upset.

The ear-to-ear grin kills the effect, of course.

Several parents I know close their children's door or put a gate up to keep the little critter contained. Since a gate would be nothing but a broken bone waiting to happen, we've opted for the closed door approach.

He hates that worse then he hates bedtime.

It's like kryptonite. Captain Chaos is rendered powerless in the face of the closed bedroom door. Before I even have the door closed, he has resorted to crocodile tears and promises that he'll stay in bed if I open the door. My favorite is when he starts to holler for me to open the door because he's asleep. (If he actually were asleep, I think all of his yelling would wake him -- don't you?)

Soft-heart that I am, I always open the door before he falls asleep, though never on his cue. Only on mine and only when I think he really means what he promises.

Each night is a new challenge. Each night brings a new opportunity for him to come up with excuses to stay awake and out of bed. Some nights he'll bellow for someone to tuck him in eight times. Other nights he'll insist that he can't reach the box of tissues on his nightstand. Sometimes he just insists that he's not tired.

Last night, though, we had a new one. It was a good bluff, and had I not gone through the whole pre-bedtime snack time song and dance, I would have bought it. But, alas for Gavie, I wasn't born under a rock last night.

"Mommy! I'm hungry!"

Wonder what tonight will bring?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Carving the niche

We're getting there! Of Ferocious Tigers and Wild Strawberries is now titled, addressed, and ready for posting.

Methinks I hit a milestone.

Thus, time to set a new one: publish the first post! It's in the works -- believe it or not I'm writing a draft or two or ten before hitting that wonderful "publish post" key!

(Where did this side come from? Since when did I draft anything? Must've appeared in that personality blip I had, right about the same time I started typing my lecture notes and developing PowerPoint lectures.)


For the curious, two answers:

1. The "niche" is to put my left-handed view of the world, my tendency to liken teaching to the business world, and my refusal to be left-brained into reworking the classroom. The same brain that made a former principal insane (she was often heard to mutter that I "just didn't get it," usually after I did something horrible like sit on my desk while having a discussion with my students) is now going to put fingers to keyboard on the topic of education and see what happens.

Last week I (figuratively) "resigned" from teaching. I told them it was their turn, that I was through with all this lecturing stuff, and that I wanted to treat them as employees and not students. The vast majority like the idea, so I'm going to run with it. Ferocious Tigers is going to explore this brave new lecture-free world.

2. Part of this niche was inspired by two particularly uninspiring workshop presentations I encountered last week. Both made me think about pulling my teeth out with a spork -- it would've been less painful. Both were so blah that I had no choice but to begin questioning what passes for conventional wisdom in the post-secondary classroom. I walk in each day and look at up to three generations in the seats before me, women who are bruised from their latest encounter with the ex, men whose long pants hide the ankle bracelet, and fresh-faced young adults who had a few kids before they were old enough to legally drink.

Let me tell you, if one more "expert" tells me that ice breakers will pack the students in and make them feel like school is the most important thing in life, I'm going to start convulsing from the utter stupidity of it all. I fail to see how a "tell me two truths and one lie about yourself" getting-to-know-you guessing game will make school more important then working overtime when the landlord threatens eviction.

(Can anyone clue me in on that one, please?)

There you have it, readers. I'm carving that niche.
The next blog you read will be ferocious!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Today, in Cuba.

I'm lifting this from Chantel's blog.
Yes, the capitalization is deliberate.

On Tuesday, June 5, TODAY’s Matt Lauer will take viewers on a special visit — to Cuba. Join Lauer as he reports live from Havana to discuss the current political and cultural climates of Cuba. The broadcast will include reports on Castro's health, a discussion about Castro's importance in the country, where its political future is headed, Cuba’s relations with the U.S. and how the U.S.- Cuba embargo affects both countries. It will a unique and exciting trip — it's one of the very few times an American TV show has broadcast live from Cuba, so don't miss it!

This is the write-up on the TODAY Show's website. I could rewrite it a thousand different ways. Instead of "special visit," I'd change the words to "sobering visit." I'd rewrite the line about "castro's importance in the country" to read, rather, "castro's oppressive hold on the country," and switch out the line about the embargo to read "how Cuba uses the embargo as an excuse to mask the freedoms in denies its people." But all that rewriting would assume a program that will reflect the realities in Cuba, and not the usual tropes about Cuba's health care, colorful people, and music. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Matt Lauer's "unique and exciting trip" is not only one of the "very few times an American TV show has broadcast live from Cuba," but also, the first time that any American TV show has gone there and told the truth. In the meantime, I've sent Matt Lauer a note, which follows. You can send one, too.

Dear Mr. Lauer,

Consider that the hotel you are staying in is one that is verboten to Cuban citizens, that the clean, decked-out beaches are only for tourists, and the three square meals you are getting while in Cuba are denied to ration-card carrying Cubans. Consider that the young girls you see loitering about in Havana may well be underaged jineteras, prostitutes trying to make ends meet and hoping against hope that you might call them tonight. Consider that a government that does not allow information access to its citizens is adept at hiding the truth from everyone.

Once you’ve considered all this, ask someone in the Cuban government why they feel the need to oppress their people this way. And Matt, don’t settle for anything other than a real answer, which has nothing to do with the embargo, or sacrifice for the common good. If you can be as ballsy as the Ladies in White, Cuban dissidents who weekly march to protest the unjust imprisonment of their husbands for political reasons, then you will have secured a place in history as the first American journalist not only to broadcast television from the island, but to take a pair to Cuba.


Chantel Acevedo


'Nuff said, wouldn't you agree?

Sunday, June 03, 2007


It all comes down to finding my niche. I've decided that. What's my niche? Trashy romance? I'm working on it -- an average of 500+ readers a month can't be wrong. But what about the rest of me? What about the tens of thousands of dollars I spent, and will continue to spend, on my education?

In high school -- and this is indeed a cringe-worthy moment, Chantel! -- I wrote an editorial for the school paper and, being the editor, got it published without anyone (namely the advisor) reading it over. It was, um, an article on the merits of the NC-17 rating and how (and I quote!) a "whole new generation could experience" a particular flick that, until my college years, I thought was something entirely different. How was I, then still a prim little Catholic school girl, to know that someone would name a woman Emmanuel?! And film her in 3-D no less!

Yeah, how's that for cringing?
(I'm much wiser now. An all-women's Catholic college will do that to you, I suppose.)

My editorial on the senior class play was much better informed, polarizing the class and making our point known by having a good many seniors sign the editorial in protest to what we -- rightly or wrongly -- considered unfair.

The point is that once-upon-yesterday, I didn't shy from making my opinions known. I had a niche.

We're back to Guy again. I watched his presentation twice today, showing it to both of my management classes. Tomorrow the organizational business class gets to see it. Wednesday brings it to my economics class.

Make meaning, find a niche, write. My brain was on overdrive today.

Truthfully, this blog alone has a niche: keeping me in touch with family and friends. I'm keeping this niche. What I want to do is write something professional, something relevant. Methinks it's time for a third blog.

And, since conventional wisdom is "write what you know," I'm going to do that. I'm also going to go out on a few limbs and, while they'll be much better researched then that high school editorial, I'm going to see just what happens when I stop apologizing for or just flat-out avoiding having an opinion.

My topics? What else? Education, management, and ethics.

More to come! I'll keep you, eh, posted!

Friday, June 01, 2007

New Title, New Ideas, New Approach...

... new reason to stress.

It's all Guy's fault. Not that I ever met him, mind you. Heck, until today I thought he was the fellow behind Kawasaki motorcycles. It's all a particular mentor's fault, too. If he hadn't mentioned Guy to me in a conversation, I wouldn't have clicked on the link to his blog, I wouldn't have read his remarks, and I wouldn't have watched the video for his Art of the Start presentation.

But, the Fates have their quirks, and now here I am... pondering the role of this blog in the great blogosphere out there.

I thought of e-mailing him with a pleasant little "thank you for changing my entire perspective on the world of management and this is how I'm going to use your ideas/blog/video in my classroom," but haven't been able to craft a note that doesn't sound like a burgeoning sycophant penned it. Yet. I have at least 45 minutes before my next class kicks in...

But what does this blog do? What is it's point? Is it really just a little vanity rag to showcase the mis-adventures of Gavie and talk about my life? I'd really rather not become one of those mindless bloggers who just rants.

If a blogger posts and no one reads it, does she really post?

Well, gang, the ego is kicking in right along with the realization that I need to write or else I will implode (explode?) due to the innumerable amount of opinions crowding my brain. Today's thought: why not write something with meaning?

(By the way, that's Guy's first rule: make meaning.)

What do I need to write?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Welcome, little one.

So long time has gone since we exchanged words....

I have the great news!!
Edoardo is born at 2.29 am, on Monday, April 2nd. All is going well.

Now we have a good reason to meet: to make our children play together.

Take care,

Dear little Edoardo,

Welcome to the world! Welcome from your Aunt Michelle over here in Pittsburgh (which was, I might add, recently named the Most Livable City)! Your daddy and I met a long, long time ago, when we were teenagers and he was on a school trip to the U.S. His principal and my principal were somehow friends, or friendly (I never was too good on remembering some details), and the next thing I knew I was one of the "student ambassadors" chosen to lead a total stranger around for the day.
How do I describe it? Your dad and I hit it off and, twelve years later, here we are. We've kept in touch, fallen silent, and resumed our friendship as if only minutes had passed. I've a large box of his letters tucked safely in my closet. On my bookshelf, I've a three-ring binder with a year's worth of e-mails, all exchanged in the twelve months after 9-11. Your dad knew me before I met my husband, the "big guy," and long before I had my son Gavie. Of course, I can say the same. I knew him when -- when he was single, when he was in the military -- and I know him now, now that he's a proud papa, now that he's not sleeping much.
I hope you're keeping him on his toes!
The picture I've posted on this blog is the only one I have of your father and me. It was taken that day, when I was a senior in high school and dying to get out into the wide world of college. We were in "my" office, where the student newspaper, The Minaret, was produced. I had my own key and felt very, very important. By the way, I think you dad's finally taller then me. :)
Gavie is four now, just old enough to teach you a few tricks guaranteed to make both of your parents go grey. When we come to Italy someday, you two will no doubt have a very good time.
Take care, little one.
Aunt Michelle
Tell your dad to send more pics!!!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Finished? So soon?

Was it really four months ago that I drove up the winding drive and started what I had pledged oh-so-long ago? Find an adjunct position at my beloved alma mater, Seton Hill. A New Year's Resolution penned January 2, 2006, just a week after losing my father. Sometimes I wonder if he had a hand in it, if he gave a little nudge to someone down here.

We like to believe that the dead can do that. It helps make the absence less real.

But this post isn't to conjure anything but the amazing sense of accomplishment (for lack of a better word) felt today as I left the Hill. Natalie Merchant's song Wonder came on when I hit the CD play button.

When it was first released, I misheard the lyrics.... laughed as she came to my cradle, oh this child will be able... laughed as my body she lifted, oh this child will be gifted -- with love, with patience, and with pain... she'll make her way...

The muse that comes to bless this child doesn't promise the gift of pain, I realized after a few listenings. She promises the gift of faith.

I like the first, the misunderstood version, better.

Call it a survival tactic, a way to maintain sanity perhaps, but I think that there is a certain gift that comes with pain -- the gift of strength. The cliche "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" means that you do experience everything unhappy. You do have moments when it seems that the world is falling apart and that you are a powerless nothing. You have moments when you aren't riding a wave but tumbling within it, drowning.

It allows you to have other moments, ones like today, when I finished my first stint as an adjunct. They called me "professor," even though -- technically -- I'm not. (Yet. I'll know in January.) Seems that I accidentally put that title on my course website. I don't know quite how I did that. I don't know how to remove it, either. (Then again, I still have trouble with the copy machine's stapling function.)

I'm going to miss this group. They were incredible. Attentive, prepared, literate, well-mannered... a teacher's dream. Virtually every class ended the same way: four o'clock would come too soon, and I'd walk to my car feeling as if I could conquer the world, humbly astounded at myself. Was I the same one who, up until last December, questioned whether or not I should remain a teacher or pursue that writing career? Should I admit to that?

This August will mark my tenth year teaching. Ten years is nothing in many respects. In others, it's astounding. My classroom stories from those ten years range from nightmarish to healing, the worst closer to the beginning -- as I suspect would be the norm for any career's learning curve. After all, how I reacted at 24 is no longer how I'd react at 34. Older and wiser, the survivor of a few crash courses in administrative politics and student threats, I know better when to stare adversaries down and when to retreat gracefully.

Seton Hill brought healing I didn't know I still needed. It brought self-discipline, too, which I knew I needed but could never quite manage.

A confession: I was terrified the first day of WCT I. Knee-shaking, white-knuckled terrified. Who was I , fourteen years out of WCT itself, to teach this class? What if I forgot something? Mistaught something from the book? What if they took one look at me and demanded a real teacher? Ten years is a blink. Every ounce of credibility I felt I had went into hibernation mode.

But, as you know, my panic was apparently for naught. If anything, the fear allowed me to grow as a teacher. I am a PowerPoint queen now. My binder of typed notes is four inches thick -- and that's without the fifteen corresponding PPT presentations with thirty or so slides each. (Yeah, pass the pocket-protector. I'm a nerd.)

...people see me, I'm a challenge to your balance... I'm over your head now, I astound you and confound you too....

I'm not so arrogant to think that I strike awe in people. Myself, yes. Others? Give me another decade and ask again. I am, however, pretty damn sure that I've confounded quite a few of you out there. And, if my students could tell you, I'm good at pushing people off balance with my two (in)famous questions: Why? and What if we're wrong?

I have one more, which I didn't use enough this term: What if we're right?

You know, it's easy to think about being wrong. Being right though... man, that's terrifying. It means that we might know what we're doing. I'm up for the challenge though.

So what now? Teach some more, write some more, apply for that Ed.D to become a real professor.

And have more fun then I ever thought possible. You know what? I think that dreams are coming true.

Thanks, gang. Watch out for that plaque.
You know why.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Mindlessness at its best.

That last post was pretty heavy, so methinks that lightness is in order this time around. And, I ask you, how much lighter can one get then Britney Spears?

(I can promise you that this blog involves no stress and, apparently, very little in terms of reality.)

Click here to find the MSNBC article: Turning the Tables. It's the second blurb down, the one after Paris being mocked by Prince.

In short, every tabloid's dreamgirl now wants her fans to sneak up on their friends at midnight and take candid, paparazzi-like photos of them. These pics are supposedly going to be used to promote her newest fragrance, Midnight Fantasy.

I don't know, readers. It sounds a bit stalker-ish to me.

Now, there are some rules, of course. Underwear must be worn, for example. Violence and nudity are discouraged, too.

Um... since she's telling her fans that midnight is the witching hour, well.... gee, how do I put this? If you're not doing something that involves nudity or violence at midnight, just what are you doing? Probably sleeping. Maybe, like me, staring at the computer and blogging away. There's an exciting pic: little old me sans make-up in old jeans and an even older t-shirt, sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop. There's a midnight fantasy for you. (Eeeek!)

Frankly, I feel sorry for the girl. She's screaming for someone to pay attention to her. Not to her money. Not to her fame. Not to her mistakes. To her. The person she is underneath all of that tabloid press. Most of us have been witness -- willing or unwilling due to the media -- to her rise and fall; and most of us probably watch with the same morbid fascination we have with train wrecks. It's not that we want to stare. It's just that we can't always help ourselves.

My question is this: who came up with this idea? Who actually thought it would be a good idea to suggest taking secret -- and no doubt un-flattering -- photos of friends for an ad campaign?

"Midnight Fantasy" is a perfume. Perfumes are to attract. Perfumes are sold by beautiful people. Perfumes are not sold by candid pics of my friend sleeping on the couch at midnight... and drooling. Pics like that are meant to be photocopies and hung up in the dorm. Perhaps given a clever caption and sent to a few others. But to sell a perfume whose very name suggests sex, desire, and perfection?

If I buy a new scent, I want to know that the idea being sold with it is one of attractiveness and happiness... not a few shots of some average joes or janes who were blindsided by their camera-wielding "buddies." This isn't the Dove Real Woman ad campaign, you know.

The truth is this: if I'm going to have a midnight fantasy, readers, I suspect there might be more to it then my tired friends chatting on-line.

Was this mindless enough? I think so... thought, somewhat ironically, I did come back and edit it twice since posting this afternoon...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Columbine revisitied

I like to think that there is a special place in Hell for people who chain the exit doors and open fire. In truth, I think that Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the brains behind South Park, had something when they portrayed Hitler having a pineapple shoved up his a** on a regular basis. Come to think of it, perhaps a pineapple isn't enough. Perhaps those who leave their baby daughters out in the snow to freeze to death, who put dying babies into book bags and shove them under twin beds, and who emotionlessly slaughter their classmates need the whole f**king pineapple tree. One tree after another. Continuously.

Day in and day out, I teach my business communications students to write without emotion. I tell them time and time again that to calm down before they pen those professional missives.

I don't think I can do that today.

How lucky I am to not know anyone at Virginia Tech. How lucky I've been over the years to know nary a soul involved in any of the school shootings.

Each day I walk into my own classroom. Each day I stand before students who have book bags that I would never dare look into, believing that ignorance is bliss. I don't want to know who's packing and who's dealing. A stupid sentiment, I'm sure. But am I really any safer knowing what they carry? Or will it only make me more paranoid? Everyday at work, we teachers know exactly what we walk into. Last week a former student was shot by police after a brief foot chase. Had he not pulled his gun, they probably wouldn't have fired. Incidentally, he's considered a "person of interest" in his stepfather's murder. Two weeks ago a seventeen-year-old girl died from an apparent overdose. The woman whose baby was found under the bed... yep, had connections here. Each term, at least one student will have to drop out due to incarceration. Students who go m.i.a. are common.

We walk into that and we teach and we try so damn hard to pull those who want to learn up to where they want to be but don't quite have the coping skills to do on their own. We pester and cajole, bribe and bargain. Let me help you. Come to class. If you at least try, I can show you where you're right and where we can work to improve. I can't help you if you don't come to school. We call absent students every day. We try to live by the school's catchphrase: "Students First. We Care."

We pound our heads against the wall sometimes.

I don't yet know the story behind today's massacre. As I write this, they've yet to identify the gunman. It makes me think, though, about what must go on in such a person's mind. Is such an act really a last resort, as pop psychology and magazines tend to explain? Somehow I doubt it. Not this time.

It makes me think about my students, many of whom I know -- for the most part -- lack basic coping/problem-solving skills.

Tomorrow we have finals. Tomorrow I will have a student or two or six walk in and say: "I don't have a pencil. What do I do?" That person will honestly not know what to do when faced with a Scan-tron exam and no pencil. Bringing a pencil or asking a classmate to borrow one will not cross that student's mind. When you grow up in an environment that does not prepare you for the pressure that comes with an authority figure asking you where your pencil is, how will you deal with the student who attacks you, who perhaps accuses you of dating her man or sleeping with his woman?

We had a forum of student safety some time ago. I was mercifully absent that day. It wasn't, you see, a meeting on improving our physical safety on campus. It was to discuss creating a "safe" environment in the classroom -- one where the students would feel like they could raise their hands to answer questions and risk being wrong.

Oh the goodness of that migraine. I'm not sure that I could have handled that meeting. The next day a fellow teacher told me that a request for call buttons was denied because they "didn't want the students to think that [we] didn't trust them."

It is the consensus of several of us that we won't be a target. We'll just be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Our students won't be the ones who chain the doors and plan; they'll be the ones who pull the gun out of a book bag and start to fire at whomever "wronged" them and God help the bystanders.

So why do I stay? Why don't I go work on some nice, safe little campus somewhere? Maybe because such a thing doesn't exist anymore. Maybe because I know that I'm as safe as my brother, who is an administrator in a very well-off school district. Wealthy kids snap just as easily as poor. My mother actually admitted that she feared for both of us, not just me. We know, from experience, that even "nice, safe schools" have students who might say the wrong thing and turn everyone's world upside-down.

But why stay? Why stay in education at all? To martyr myself someday on the alter of idealism? I suppose that's where it's heading. I suppose that this blog has turned into another ponderance on why I bother to teach grammar during the week when, on weekends, I can explore a myriad of ideas -- ranging from the role of women in the creation of early weaponry to the role of the church in current political ideologies. I can ask "why" and "what if we're wrong" and not worry about someone's mind liquefying because I went too high on Bloom's Taxonomy. I can take risks and ask students to examine their belief systems.

I answered that question before. I stay because, right now, I have a point and make a difference. When I stop having a point, making a difference, then I'll hand in my resignation. I love my students, the vast majority of which are no different from me. My coworkers make each day even more enjoyable. We laugh and talk, have happy hours, punk each other now and then, and find comfort in knowing that we're all in the same boat at work. While I'd love another job, one with more intellectual challenges, I'm content to take my time and find the "perfect" one. I'm still lucky, I don't have to rush and take the first one I come across.

For now, while I look for that perfect job, I'll watch Cartoon Network with Gavie and eat popcorn and laugh at Lazlo and Blue and all of those other lovely little blips of ink -- and, while he giggles at their antics, I'll try to figure out how to teach him how to cope.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Ballad of Turtle Louch

My kid is a great traveller. He didn't complain much -- for a near-four-year-old. He took the airport pat-down in stride (nothing beats taking your shoes off in public), didn't fuss overly much about sitting in the holding area before we boarded (actually, watching the luggage loading was pretty fascinating to the little fella), and loved the airplane bathroom (I probably don't have to explain how I know that little detail).

At Disney, he woke up each morning eager to get out to the day's adventures. Breakfast was a struggle, I admit, because -- after all -- why waste time eating when you can be riding Peter's Pan's Adventure or seeking out Captain Hook for that coveted autograph? For once, there was nary a protest when we said rise and shine.

Each evening, after a long day of sensory-overload, he'd fall asleep on the shuttle that took us back to our hotel, the Caribbean Beach Resort. We'd carry him to the room and tuck him in with Turtle, his current favorite "pet." Each morning, we'd leave Turtle behind. Safe in the confines of the room.

Or so we thought.

Turtle, we had told Gavie, was much better suited to the hotel. There were too many people and too many opportunities for him to get lost at the various parks. Gavie concurred.

So we went to MGM Studios, we visited the Animal Kingdom, and we explored the Magic Kingdom sans Turtle. That was okay, Gwammy bought him a few net "pets" to hold throughout the day. We ate at a dozen different restaurants, had too much cotton candy, and gorged on popcorn. All the while, Turtle sat at the hotel, guarding Gavie's daily acquisitions.

Or so we thought.

You see, one morning was a bit rushed and, well, we left Turtle in Gavie's bed. That night, returning with a sleeping child, we gave the toy little thought. We didn't, in fact, think about Turtle until the next night. It was then that we realized that it was gone.

While Gavie slept, we turned out hotel rooms upside-down. We found a few coins, but that was it. Turtle, we could only assume, had been accidentally bundled up with the sheets when the cleaning lady came through. We called home.

"Code red, code red, Louch homeland security is at elevated levels. Code red, all stations are on alert," the big guy told his younger sister when we called home the next day -- while Gavie was on a ride with Gwammy and out of earshot. He told her about Turtle. Na, as we call her, helped fill in the biggest blank we had: where Turtle came from. Seems that Kohl's was the answer to that. It was from a Kohl's Cares for Kids promotion some time ago.

Knowing the trauma that we'd run into once Gavie missed Turtle, Uncle Donn manned the computer station and hit E-Bay. Within minutes he found a replacement thanks to someone buying a few dozen and reselling them. He and Na re-assured us that all would be well. True, but until that new Turtle came through, we were still on alert. Gwammy bought Gavie a new turtle, Squirt from Finding Nemo. For the remainder of the trip, my son somehow remained none-the-wiser, blissfully unaware that his beloved Turtle was, probably at that very moment, in the spin cycle at Disney's gigantic laundry facility.

It wasn't until Monday night that he noticed. Can we say "heart-broken sobs"? Holding my little boy as he cried for his best friend made me swear that Turtle II would never leave our house. Ever.

Two long days later, the Turtle "came home from Disney," as we told Gavie. "He was staying to help Mickey Mouse a little bit," we lied.

As long as you don't look at Gavie's Christmas portrait (with the original Turtle lovingly clutched in his three-year-old grip) and the different pattern of spots on Turtle II's back, you'd never be the wiser.

A week later, a small padded envelope arrived from Disney. We'd filed a report with the Lost and Found Department, but knowing the size of the laundry facilities and the sheer number of hotels, we had little hope. Judging by the size of the envelope, it was too small to be Turtle anyway. It was probably some little stuffed Mickey, sent to console my son.

It was, instead, one well-washed Turtle. He not only went through the whole wash cycle but also the entire drying process. You know, I never knew that stuffed animals could shrink!

I can only hope that God forgives the white lies of mothers. "Gavie! Come here, honey! Mickey sent Turtle's little brother to you!"

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Magic Kindgom, part I

Hell hath no fury as a mother scorned... by Mickey Mouse.

Okay, I know that moms can go into all sorts of "that's my child" rages for all sorts of reasons -- playground bullies, unfair teachers, whatever. But Mickey Mouse? He's the icon of all that is warm and fuzzy! He's the personification of all that is happiness! Not Mickey Mouse!

Yep. Mickey Mouse. The Big Cheese himself.

We spent last week at Disney World. It was wonderful. Gavie was all eyes, overwhelmed by the sheer magic of Walt's dream. He's at that perfect age: the one where everything he sees is real. When he met Mary Poppins, Captain Hook, and Buzz Lightyear, he was nothing but ear-to-ear smiles. When we rode Peter Pan's Flight, he was entranced. It's a Small World was one of his favorites and being able to sit in Pinocchio's restaurant for lunch and overlook the Small World boats AND WAVE was almost as delightful. Especially when the merry boaters would wave back to him.

Gavie is the ultimate traveler. He took Sunday's 4 a.m. wake-up call in stride, loved the airplane, relished the ride on Disney's Magic Express to the Caribbean Beach hotel, and hit Epcot running. He didn't stop until late that afternoon when he fell asleep on Spaceship Earth (you know, the giant silver golf ball) while he and my mother, Gwammy, went through for the second time that day.

But where, you ask, does Mickey fit in? Monday night. The eight o'clock Spectromagic parade (a.k.a. Electrical Light Parade). We had front-row curbside seats for the event. It was going to be grand!

And it was.

Until that overgrown rodent didn't know my son was waving at him. Blasted parade choreography! That mouse was facing the wrong way when the float went past! He waved to someone else's kids! Nevermind that Gavie was apparently unphased. Nevermind that the much more important Captain Hook waved. That was Mickey, dammit! And my son waved! THEREFORE, the mouse should have turned immediately and waved back!

(Ahhhh, if only all of life's problems could be that simple, huh?)

I guess we can add one more irrational motherly behavior to my list.

Monday, March 12, 2007

They're rats with fluffy tails.

So there I was, surfing the 'net when BAM! today's topic hit me. Squirrels! Seems that that fuzzy little beasts cause more power outages each year then lightening.

Here's the link: Suicide Squirrels

Here's my blog... an essay on why I hate squirrels.

Imagine, dear readers, a house of seventy-odd years. Character galore: hardwood floors and stained glass windows. A tiled fireplace. Professionally landscaped twenty years previous, meaning that what had been envisioned was well into fruition. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

And sitting next to said house, a tree. No doubt older then the house itself. The tree shades the front yard so completely that the living room and what became the nursery are comfortably cool all summer. The branches arch up, reaching to the sky and touching the clouds above. Each fall, it's an explosion of red and gold, so glorious that one almost doesn't mind raking.

And in said tree are squirrels. Furry little rotten bastards hell-bent on getting into my house. Brown rats with fluffy tails. One in particular, a ring-leader I'm convinced, knew how to slip in and curl up in my laundry basket. It's beady black eyes closed in repose as it enjoyed the warmth that's literally heaped on it, as shirts and pants and towels slide down to chute and land atop it's fat little carcass.

No doubt the dislike I possess comes from the moment I pulled a shirt from the basket and found him rolled up and ready to hibernate. No doubt his desire to torment me came from my ear-splitting, high-pitched scream of fright -- a scream apparently so harsh to his ears that he actually froze. Unmoving. Not even blinking, so terror-ridden was he. He gave nary a protest when the Big Guy came down and threw a rug over the basket, effectively trapping him inside.

Apparently, though, being ousted from my warm abode did not sit well with the creature.

There's something very disturbing about walking up to your front porch and looking up... to see three squirrels watching you and chirping. Rather macabre and Hitchcock-ish, if you will. I was waiting for the beasts to leap upon me much like one of Alfred's birds attacked Tippi a half-century ago.

Thankfully, they decided that menacing chatter was enough.

A little over a year later, they'd no doubt been waiting for the perfect opportunity, I was in the laundry room when I heard scritch-scratch, scritch-scratch. I thought it was my cat playing around the furnace. Perhaps she was chasing a bug.

Scritch-scratch. Scritch-scratch.

I was several months pregnant by this point and too tired to really investigate, so I just stood there and waited for her to come into view.


No. Not the cat. The squirrel. The glorified rodent. AND FRIEND. Playing about my furnace.

No screams this time, just good old-fashioned legwork. I tore up the steps and, in my least-ladylike vocabulary, told my husband and neighbor that we had, to put it politely this time, "guests."

Two of the four-footed overgrown vermin came back just weeks before we were to move. This time they dove down the chimney.

The joke was on them.

You see, the fireplace had been sealed. They landed underneath it where the ashes would have gathered. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes. One apparently broke its neck (it wasn't in there long enough to starve), so we only had to deal with one live one. My brother grabbed him about his neck and literally threw him out of the garage.

Did you know that squirrels bounce?

(Disclaimer: no squirrels were harmed in the writing of this post.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Well, yeah... it's about 20 degrees out, tops... and, yeah, there's icy snow out there... but after last week's sub-zero temperatures, I'm thinking we're enjoying a little Indian summer. Yesterday, for example, we hit a high of 32 degrees. Break out the t-shirts and fire up the grill for some kielbasa, fellow Pittsbughers! I boldly went sans hat while leaving work yesterday! And my ears were NOT frozen right off of my head. Good thing, eh?

Coming home today would have been nerve-wracking, to be honest, had we been in the car. Luckily, we bus. Feeling a bus skid, even a few short feet, is not a pleasant sensation -- mainly because I have one single thought: "if this huge thing skids, what will my Saturn do?" Luck was on our side, though, because we made it to the park-n-ride and home before the sleet/ice/snow really kicked in.

I think that pretty much every kid and teacher in the affected areas are praying for a snow. I know I am. Truth be told, I'm torn! If I go in, assuming school is open, it will be a ghost town. Translation: no classes due to a lack of students! (I have the "one-student rule," which means that I do not teach when there is only one other body in the classroom. There has to be two for me to do anything. It used to be the "50% rule," but that was too often to be feasible. Too many of my adult students have outside issues that keep them from attending regularly; e.g., kids, court, difficult bosses, court dates, or even incarceration.)

If we have school but lack students, I can spend my hours getting paperwork caught up, writing my Saturday lecture (three hours of lecture and a killer PPT presentation, I rock thank you very much!), kibbitzing with coworkers, and probably ordering a pizza around noon.

Then again, if I stay home, I can play in the snow with Gavie. That doesn't even need an explanation as to why that would be attractive! With a hill in the backyard, a sled, and six or more inches of snow....

My fingers are crossed.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Um... a title? Got me.

Sometimes one can be too awake.

Today's class was too short. We're covering the Middle Ages -- the Dark Ages, if you will. The era of Charlemagne, of the Treaty of Verdun, and of the Vikings. We're talking about the rise of an empire and of its fall. We're looking at the way in which weak kings and strong aristocrats manipulated a system and how traditional inheritance systems can destroy a whole kingdom. We looked at original documents, discussed the universitae of the day, and laughed heartily at a bit of artwork left over from the day -- the stone relief of a medieval classroom you see at your left. Even back then, students pondered the deepest question of life: is class over yet?

But my brain, I fear, was racing. Fascinated by the thought of the invention of the horseshoe and a different style of horse collar. Add the twin ideas windmills and watermills, and you have yourself an agricultural evolution that freed the serfs and eventually made need for castles a thing of the past and you have the makings of a lecture that I was chomping at the bit (pardon the pun) to get to today.

Imagine! Being able to grow more food then you need! We can sell it! Eureka! The men can go back to school! Learning can be renewed, trades can be pursued, and specializations can begin. Again! (Maslow would be proud! We're once-again on our way to self-actualization! It's pretty hard to self-actualize when you're busy carrying that pocketful of posies to ward off the plague.)

Then again, with the return of the luxury of thoughts beyond survival, people went back to the Roman insanity of seeking happiness while on earth. Which, of course, brought up a whole host of problems as people tried to be happy AND obey the church's edicts. That one about sex only for procreation was a tricky one, I understand. Did you know that s-e-x was just plain b-a-d in the early church's eyes? Marriage wasn't that great either. But, if you had to -- you know -- do it, it was best done within the confines of marriage. Divorce was illegal, of course. No matter how ugly, quarrelsome, or barren the woman may be. The church was a bit different back then. For example, St. Thomas of Aquinas remarked that women were only good for procreation. Meanwhile, the Germanic influence on the church itself resulted in the idea of religious freedom -- provided that your were Christian. Otherwise, well, you found yourself on the wrong side of the sword.

Kinda ironic given that just a bit earlier the Christians were the ones lighting Nero's garden parties. Literally.

Ah well. No one ever said we learned from history. Besides, it's all about pots and pans now. That's literally, too. Captain Chaos is jumping on my couch to the song Pots and Pans, which comes to us from the latest Kohl's for Kids book, Dog Train by Sandra Boynton.

Perhaps I sound like the biggest nerd out there -- one with attention issues, today. Perhaps I am! But even you can probably appreciate this line from the text: "One Germanic professor was finally dismissed from his position after stabbing one too many of his colleagues at faculty meetings."

One too many?

Fellow teachers, can you imagine? Think about all of those lovely meetings we've been to... the ones where people talk and talk and talk and talk and yet say nothing. Think about the ones where the powers-that-are bring in "authorities" on topics such as classroom safety and engaging the learners. Remember all those helpful chats? My favorite was the one where I was told that simply invading a disruptive student's space will cause him or her to immediately quiet down and behave.

That's about the time I get told to "f**k off" by the kid.

That same speaker played The Rose for us and told us that we, the teachers, could inspire a student to be anything. Hell, half the time I'm just hoping to inspire them to stay conscious.

So anyway, back to faculty meeting homicides and my favorite question: can you imagine?

Well, such fantasies aside...! Oh, yeah, he's still jumping. Got the song on "repeat." I think this is the fifteenth playing. (In case you're wondering, I gave Chaos permission to jump. I also give him permission to get really, really muddy in the summer and we had a blast leaping into freshly raked leaves this past fall. It was worth the blisters.)

Sometimes one can be too awake. That's where I came in. Feudalism, universities, and serfs. Economic emancipation. All thanks to being able to shoe a horse and harness the wind! Remember the poem For the Want of a Nail? Economic emancipation thanks to a nail! Does this mean I might someday emancipate myself thanks to a pencil? Dunno. Anyone want a copywriter who specializes in educational and business-related topics? On-line and PowerPoint lectures my speciality.

Now what do I say? Hmmm.... being that this blog is proof of what I'm claiming, perhaps the best thing to say - for now at least! -- is:

Blender solo!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Time marches on

Tonight friend of ours came over, bringing their two sons. How amazing two watch their oldest and Gavie share the oversized sketch book and make blue circles on their respective pages. How fun to hold their youngest, who will be one on Gavie's fourth birthday. The seven of us sat around the kitchen table and shared pizza. Us adults talked about the excitingly mundane: insurance, taxes, work. We joked, too, of course, she and I playing "I knew you when."

She knew me just as the big guy and I were buying our first house and just starting a three-year road to conceiving. I knew her when she and her big guy were just starting to date, just taking those first steps into committment. Naturally, I teased the hell out of her.

We both started at VADU the same year. I left the following June, fleeing to higher education. I've had three jobs since. She'd still there. (Believe me, I'm saying that with admiration!)

Time marches on. Eight... or is it nine?... years now and our little boys are making friends.

When they left, we happily picked up the chaos that a three and two-year-old leave in their wake. We love washable crayons and berber carpets, for they let boys be boys. Plastic bins let us toss trucks and Fisher-Price Little People in haphazardly and with ease. In all, it was a whopping five minutes. I've never been a particularly fussy woman when it comes to Gavie. True, I have issues with letting him out in public in mismatched outfits or his favorite but well-worn sweats (never!!), but I've yet to flinch when it comes to messes made in the pursuit of fun.

Growing up, dreaming about families and kids, I never really knew how much I'd love these nights. They aren't exactly the most exciting -- no dancing, no crowds, no late nights. Stumbling in at 3 a.m. was never my way, I don't think I've ever done that. The last time my friends and I went dancing, in fact, I left at midnight and didn't drink a thing beyond a Pepsi. Living the wild life, which according to the media is the way to go for someone of my youth, was never quite my thing. Still, sitting around talking about insurance was not something I ever gave much thought to.

I'm looking forward to doing it again.

We're watching Cars right now. I'm sitting on the couch, and Gavie is bundled under an afghan. He's falling asleep, slowly. Louch that he is, he's fighting it. Like his father, he doesn't seem to require much sleep. In about a half hour, after he's completely out, I'll carry him upstairs and relish holding my baby. He's getting so tall, too soon I won't be able to carry him. Even now it's getting tricky. When I read to him, he's too lanky to hold on my lap. Balancing him and a book no longer happens. Actually, just cuddling on my lap is becoming a challenge because he's all arms and legs.

In pictures he looks older then almost-four. My baby boy now tells me he can do things all by himself. He wants to do everything by himself. "By myself, mom! All by myself!"

We finally got our family portrait taken. It's hanging over the fireplace to the left of the wedding portrait. To the right is Gavie's third birthday portrait. He's standing there with a smile on his face, unguarded. I can see his dad's features in his small face. He's his dad all over again -- though he inherited my nose.

"All by myself," he announces daily. By the minute, it sometimes seems. When he tries to prove that he can do things by himself we often have to run interference between him and a number of everyday household items that almost-four-year-olds aren't quite capable of handling alone. You know, like emptying the Dustbuster. Operating a screwdriver. Putting hand lotion on the cat. (Well, trying to anyway!)

"All by myself." My baby's growing up. It's going to be a heck of a ride, I suspect, whatwith his tendency to have an answer for everything. He may look like his dad, but he sounds like his mom.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Welcome, daughter, home returning

Welcome, daughter.

As I wound my way up the hill, taking that familiar turns with ease, I couldn't help but smile. Little Michelle, who used to be scared of her own shadow, was driving to orientation so that come Saturday, January 6, she could stand before a room of countless strangers and talk about long-dead cultures and political bodies.

One resolution realized: return to Seton Hill to teach.

The phrase that I titled this blog with was the welcoming phrase for alum weekend over a decade ago, when SHU was SHC and the population was "predominantly female." The welcome stuck with me all these years, then came to mind as I made that final turn and Admin came into view.

I felt as if I truly were coming home. The Hill where I spent my post-secondary years was indeed my home, where I came into my own.

I thought of my room Brownlee Hall -- one of the "infamous" triples, where three women were crammed into a space meant for two. I had the loft. That year I was a typist on the Setonian, and I had a won a role in a one-act play. I met boys and men and played an awful lot of pool.

Life on Fourth Admin, short as it was, a learning experience. I'll say no more on those two months save that I learned how to get up, shower, grab some toast and juice, then roll into class in under a half-hour. I became the Setonian's Production Editor and ate too many Eat-n-Park Smiley Cookies.

My one-and-a-half years in Havey Hall, the one with a woman exactly like me but completely different. I drove her crazy with my procrastination, being the antithesis of her organized and proactive self. We had a sink in the room and thought it the lap of luxury. The Setonian became my life as I was named Editor -- so much so that the big guy bet me that I couldn't go a week without talking about it. I think I nearly bit my tongue in half to do it, but I somehow won the bet. The pool table was still a looming figure in my social life, which was easy to understand being that it was in the Havey lounge.

My final year in my then-boyfriend-now-husband's old room: 526 Canevin Hall. My own room, nary a single roommate, but neighbors who made life quite pleasant. Another year as Editor. Peace was made with the former perfectionist roommate, which was easy once we weren't living together. During Senior Week, a number of us women sharked at the bars we went to. Not too many men thought that a bunch of giggly college girls knew which end of the cue to use, let alone how to sink those solids and stripes just so. We got a lot of free food and drinks that week.

I student taught that year, taking over a ninth grade history class where a young girl threw her books out the window, brought in her pet newts in her purse, and set her desk on fire. (No wonder I'm so calm in the classroom when someone tells me she just got out of jail for trying to murder her stepmother. I don't panic. I just ask if she's planning to do that to me.)

Four too-short years for this Setonian girl.

Welcome, daughter. Welcome back to your window seat in third Maura solarium, where you would sit and wait for the big guy to get out of Spanish class. Welcome back to Lowe Dining Hall where your mother-in-law works and where your son is known by everyone there. Welcome to where you learned to define yourself by yourself -- rather then by others' ideals.

Come Saturday I'd be the teacher, standing before the class... not sitting in the ancient wooden paddle desks where Lori carved her love for Blaine. Those desks, by the way, are just about gone. Replaced by tables and cushioned chairs. The few podiums we had are now sleek black ones that house an amazing amount of technology.

Western Cultural Traditions, WCT for short, is no longer a survey course taught to the entire sophmore class at once. The auditorium-style lecture that I remembered has been replaced by small groups. There are no longer different lecturers each week -- just the teacher. That, incidentally, would be me.

Did I ever mention that my first degree was history?

It's a testament to my education at SHC that I am able to walk into a room and teach history for nearly four hours, despite being out of the history classroom for eight years. As I prepared for the class, it all came back to me. Dead kings and ancient maps were as fresh in my memory as they were fourteen years ago when I was sitting in those blasted paddle desks and reading the graffiti'd history of generations of Hill girls. Somehow I retained much more then I thought I had.

It's a testament, too, to that same education that I've been able to make the transition from high school to business college, and now to the university, classroom with little difficulty. You see, Saturday went swimmingly. Over-prepared and quite confident, I managed to hide my nerves and come across (I think!) as if I'd been standing before a room of undergrads for years.

Standing in 228 Maura, in a room that was once tiered and now not, in a room where I watched student government elections and dogged the student reps with questions on accuracy and ethics, I did it. I stood and lectured and oversaw groupwork. I fielded questions without blinking or breaking a sweat. I made them think.


Me, doing that. Wow.