Friday, July 29, 2011

Me and My...Cockroach?

            I stepped into the shower this morning and breathed in deeply. Steam billowed around me; the stiffness in my muscles began to melt away as the water rained gently from above. I began to think that the day might turn out to be a good one. Bad days didn’t usually start out so pleasantly.

            I squirted a blob of peach-scented shampoo into my hand and began to lather my hair.  The smell of Georgia in summer permeated the air. It was uplifting. Yup, it was going to be a good day.

            I tilted my head back to rinse off the shampoo lather when I noticed that I was not alone. A cockroach waved his antennae at me from where he clung to the ceiling directly above me. To say I was not charmed by the 2-inch-long bug’s antics would be a huge understatement. He was not cute and I did not want to share my shower with him.

            I carefully considered my options. My usual method of getting rid of a roach was to throw a carefully aimed shoe in his direction and then scoop up the smashed mess with a paper towel for disposal. For obvious reasons, that wasn’t going to work for me this time.

            I wiped the soap out of my eyes with the back of my hand. I had to know where the darn roach was at all times. If he started crawling towards me, I was going to scream. How that would help I had no idea, but screaming was definitely part of my general game plan.

            I thought about quickly getting out of the shower and running to my closet in the bedroom to get a shoe to use as a catapult. There was shampoo dripping into my eyes and I was wet. Half blind, I would probably slip on the bathroom tile and end up spending what was supposed to be a good day in the emergency room. That would be bad. I racked my brain for another option.

            I considered shooting water at him to dislodge him from his perch on the ceiling. That would get him down, but where would he go? He would land somewhere in the shower stall. The roach was too big to fit down the holes in the drain, so he’d probably end up on the floor. Right next to my feet? So not.

            I finally decided that the roach and I were going to have to coexist for a short time. I kept one eye on him at all times, which, as you might expect, does indeed make it extremely difficult to wash your face. The rest of me got a haphazard swipe with a wash cloth and a quick rinse. Breathing a sigh of relief, I turned off the water and got out of the shower.

            Dry and wrapped in a towel, I went to the closet and came back with one of my husband’s black dress shoes. I never use my own shoes when killing roaches if I can help it and what my husband doesn’t know won’t hurt him, right?

            Amazon warrior woman was going huntin’. I strode back into the bathroom, weapon firmly in hand. How dare that disgusting roach ruin my peaceful shower with his disgusting roach presence! I got my weapon ready and slammed open the shower door. “I have you now,” I yelled, and then gave the venomous chuckle that goes along with said cliché. I looked up, brandishing my shoe fiercely at…the ceiling.

            There was no sign of the freshly showered cockroach. I had no idea where he had gone, except that he was loose somewhere in my bathroom. The thought sent chills down Amazon warrior woman’s back. I left the bathroom, grumbling to myself. If that roach knew what was good for him, he’d catch the first bug train out of the house. How dare he mess up my morning?

            Tomorrow I’d be looking for him before I got into the shower. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I'm a Teacher, NOT a Cheater!

            “So what do you think about the cheating scandal?”


            “You know, all those teachers in Georgia getting caught changing answers on kids’ tests? What do you think about it?” The woman addressing me was wearing the same aluminum foil hat my stylist had just plastered on my head. I was willing to bet that underneath hers was some blonde.

            I was a bit stumped by the question. How could an ethical person think that the education cheating scandal was anything but disgraceful? “I think it’s a terrible thing for an educator to do.”

            “But didn’t you ever feel like doing that when you were teaching middle school? I mean, there’s so much pressure on teachers to have their students do well on those state tests.”

            “No,” I answered. “I’m a good teacher and I trusted that my students would do well.”

            “Really?” Her eyebrows, coated with dye, would have illustrated her skepticism if she hadn’t had a Botox treatment that rendered her forehead immobile.

            “Yes, really. I would never consider cheating like that. It’s wrong!”

            She nodded. “Do you know any teachers who cheated at your school?”

            “Of course not. Don’t you think that teachers who cheated would keep that information to themselves?”

            “So you think that there are probably teachers at your school who changed kids’ answer sheets like those teachers in Atlanta Public Schools?”

            “No, I’m not saying that at all. I don’t know of any teachers who cheated.” I was starting to wonder if this woman worked for the FBI or Action News or something. “The teachers I know are ethical people who work hard and care about the children they teach.”

            “I think that ethical teachers are hard to find these days,” she sighed. “It’s getting to the point where you’re afraid to send your children to public school.”

            “Really? Do people believe that a lot of teachers are cheating?”

            She eyed me sympathetically. “Sure they do. It makes sense, in a way. Teachers whose students don’t do well on the tests could lose their jobs. That’s a big deal.”

            “You mean that the actions of a few unethical teachers have damaged the reputations of all of the teachers in Georgia? Most of us wouldn’t even consider cheating, and yet the public believes that we are?”

            “It must be hard to be a teacher right now.”

            “It is frustrating,” I agreed. “As a matter of fact, I’ve been thinking of working as a barista at Starbucks this year. What do you think?”

            “I hear that Starbucks has a nice stock option plan for employees.”

            I nodded glumly as she got up. “Good luck to you,” she said as she walked away.

            “Thanks. I need all I can get,” I mumbled.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Adequate Yearly Problems...er...Progress

            I immediately breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that my son’s high school made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) this year. A few seconds later, I found myself wondering why I cared enough about the artificial standard to feel anything at all. The whole issue would be laughable except for the fact that No Child Left Behind – now morphed into Race to the Top under President Obama – has inflicted considerable damage on the nation’s education system.
Many schools in Georgia didn’t meet the AYP goals for the 2010-2011 school year. Gwinnett County, which won the $1,000,000 Broad prize for best urban school district in 2010, did not meet AYP goals as a county. I live here and I have to wonder what this year’s AYP scores are going to do to my property value. Does this mean that Gwinnett County has lousy schools?

Well, no. Gwinnett County schools for the most part are pretty good. Students who graduate from a Gwinnett County high school are able to read, write, and do basic math. Most of our students go on to attend colleges, universities, or trade schools. What more do we really want from public education?

Now that’s the question, isn’t it? What do we really want from public education? Do we want to churn out students who can answer multiple choice questions or do we want to nurture students who can think and solve real-life problems? Do we want to churn out teachers who feel they have to cheat the AYP system in order to retain their jobs, or do we want to nurture teachers who are effective, enthusiastic educators?

            No Child Left Behind, if you choose to be charitable, was formed from good intentions. Everyone wants children to receive a good education, but politicians and educators have long held vastly different ideas about how to accomplish that. It seems clear to me that the politics-based AYP system is harming the very children it was supposed to help. We need to get rid of it before our road to hell is completely paved.

Friday, July 22, 2011

FaceBook to Start Charging Users?

            “Chris, do you think FaceBook is going to start charging its users?”

            “No. They make their money through advertisements.”

            “Really? I keep reading posts on FaceBook that they’re going to start charging. I like FaceBook, but I don’t want to pay for it.”

            “Oh, you’d pay for it. You’re addicted.”

            “I am not. I can stop anytime I want to.”

            “Uh huh. Why don’t you stop going on FaceBook for a week and see how you feel then?”

            I considered that for a moment. “I don’t need to test it. I know I’m not addicted.”

            “Right. I wonder how much FaceBook could get away with charging people like you. Would you pay $20 a month?”

            “Absolutely not. And what do you mean ‘people like you’?”

            He waved my question away. “Would you pay $8 a month?”

            I had to think about that one for a moment. “No, I don’t think so. That would be almost $100 a year.”

            “$5 a month then. Would you be willing to pay $5 a month to get FaceBook and all the apps you use?”



            “I mean no, of course not.”

            “You’re funny.” Chris kissed me on my nose. “I’m glad you’re not addicted. That would be pathetic.”

            “Pathetic,” I agreed. “What kind of person gets addicted to FaceBook anyway?”

FYI - Here’s the latest post being bounced around FaceBook:
On September 31st 2013, FaceBook will start charging you for your account. To avoid this, you must get naked, stand on your dining room table and do the Macarena, all while singing ''I Will Survive''. Then, and only then, will Mark Zuckerberg come down your chimney to tell you that your account will stay free. Pass it on, it must be true because someone on FaceBook I hardly know told me...:) ♥ loveys

            I sure hope this posting isn’t true. I cannot for the life of me remember the steps to the Macarena….

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Closets and Other Fashion Disasters

This is a closet.
This is a closet on drugs.

       Guess which one is mine.

This is Tim Gunn's most likely reaction to viewing my closet.
I'm not sure I can make it work, Tim. I mean, look at that mess!

Well of course I do...

Last day of class for the Fab 5
July 2010
Do I wear all of those clothes?
Disney World, July 2011

Now wait. Is that the same red shirt in both pictures? What a coincidence!

Savannah, GA
Mother's Day 2009
Stonehenge, October 2010
Wreck's first grooming
 May 2011
Meeting my grandniece
July 2011
OK, so it's my favorite black shirt. Get off my back!

No, you're right. I should get rid of the stuff in my closet that I never wear. I'm planning on doing that.

When? Um...soon.

Yes, I mean it. Let me pencil it in on my calendar right now. Hmm...I have a dentist appointment tomorrow. Maybe next week? No, I'm doing volunteer work next week. The week after that? No, Gloria and I are going to the spa. Maybe I can work it in around September 15th, unless I get that job I interviewed for. Then I'll be working.

But I promise I'll clean out the closet at my earliest convenience. Cross my heart and hope to...well, you know. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Harry Potter and the End of Childhood As We Know It

            “My childhood is over.” Alex flopped down on the sofa and sighed dejectedly, the back of his right hand resting on his forehead. He propped up his feet on the arm of the couch because he was too tall to lie down flat.

            “I don’t think so. You’re a senior in high school and you can’t legally drink or vote. I would say that puts you in your late childhood.”

            “None of that matters. I saw the last Harry Potter movie this morning. Throughout my entire childhood, I looked forward to reading the next Harry Potter book and seeing the next movie. Now it’s over. My childhood is done.”

            “Isn’t that a little bit dramatic?”

            “There’s nothing to look forward to now!” Even with his deep voice, he sounded like a whiny eight year old.

            “OK, now you’re being the king of drama.”

            He propped himself on one elbow and looked at me. “You haven’t seen the movie yet, have you?”

            “No. Dad and I are going this afternoon. We want to watch part 1 again before we go.”

            “I bet you understand after you see it,” my child predicted.

            He was right. I absolutely understood what he meant as I left the theater later that day.

            “Chris, I think my childhood is over.”

            My husband kindly refrained from making the obvious comment. “I know what you mean,” he answered. “We just saw the last Harry Potter movie. It was the end of an era.”

            “That’s exactly it. It's sad,” I replied. “Maybe J.K. Rowling will write something else for us now.”

            “We can hope,” he said with a smile. “Or maybe Vicki Scullion will write something for us.”


            "I can't wait to read it!"

            "Me, too," I muttered under my breath. "I'll get right on that, then, shall I?"

            "You go, girl."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sneezes and Blessings

            The woman sitting next to me in my office (a.k.a. the Starbucks in Snellville) just sneezed on me. Now I’m not germ phobic, but I was a bit put off by the incident. You see, no “excuse me” followed the sneeze. It was a toss-up whether or not I was more disgusted by the lack of manners or the lack of proper hygiene.

            The part of me that has never stopped being a middle school teacher wanted to prompt her with “and what do you say when you sneeze?”  I was remarkably controlled, for me, and responded with a simple “bless you.” She nodded acknowledgement without looking at me. I guess she didn’t want to watch me wiping snot from my arm. I can’t blame her, really. It was not pretty.

            Well, one thought led to another and I found myself pondering the reason I had just blessed this inconsiderate woman. Was I concerned for her health? I don’t think so, although I am hoping she didn’t have anything contagious. Or maybe I subscribed to the ancient belief that sneezing temporarily pulled a person’s soul out of the body and a blessing kept demons from taking it over. Did I want to make sure a demon didn’t inhabit her body? Um…no.

            Possibly I thought that sneezing stopped a person’s heart and a blessing would restart it.  I would prefer not to have to use my ancient CPR skills if a blessing would work as well, but I have serious doubts about the whole sneezing-stopping-the-heart thing.

            The only reason for saying “bless you” that I could come up with in the end was this: MANNERS.  My mother taught me to say “bless you” when someone sneezed, and so I do it. I don’t know why I do it except that Mom told me I should. That’s a good enough reason for me.

Why do we say “bless you” when someone sneezes? No one really knows, but you can read more about it at:  http://www.snopes.com/language/phrases/blessyou.asp

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Choosing the Perfect Wine

            “What wine do you suppose goes best with hot dogs and potato chips?”

            My husband’s eyes crossed. “I’d skip the wine and head straight for the grape Kool-aid.”

            “Really? I bought a Kendall-Jackson merlot. You don’t think that would add a nice touch of class to our dinner tonight?”

            “Did you buy some caviar to put on the hot dogs, too?”

            “Darn. I knew I forgot something. I really have to start making a list before I shop. No, I just have sauerkraut, mustard and chopped onions.”

            “Nice,” he grimaced.

            “What?” I was starting to get snippy.

            “What do you mean ‘What’? I hate sauerkraut.”

            “Oh, yeah. I forgot. Just don’t eat any, then.”

            “Don’t worry. I won’t.”

            “I suppose you think that the chocolate cake I baked this afternoon won’t go with the merlot, either.”

            “Au contraire, my sweet. Chocolate cake and merlot are the perfect pairing. What say we skip the hot dogs and go straight to the dessert course?”

            I considered that for a second or two. “That would be acceptable.”

            He poured a glass of wine for each of us and handed one to me. “A toast?”           

            I lifted my glass. “To hot dogs and grape Kool-aid!”

            He chuckled. “To you, my love. America’s next Top Chef!”

            OK, now that’s funny.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Her House

            The house sat empty; the silence was profound. Without the woman, it felt abandoned. She had designed the house, watched it grow with each board nailed tightly to the frame. Inside, she’d chosen each piece of furniture lovingly and had placed it exactly where it had the best effect. Her paintings, statues, plants, and framed family portraits gave the place a warm feeling. It wasn’t just a house when she had finished; it was their home.

            She’d been away for more than two weeks now. The man rarely came home. When he did, the house could feel his pain and his loneliness. He was scared for the woman and even more scared for himself. The hospital smell lingered on his clothes and in his hair. Some nights he was too tired to shower it away before he fell into bed for a few hours of restless sleep.

            Their children came from far away to be with them. The man was glad they were there. He’d thought they would be in the way at first, but that hadn’t proven to be true. The house welcomed them, sheltered them protectively. They were worried about her, too, but they had hope and strength to share. They believed with all their hearts that she would recover.

            And recover she did. Rehabilitation was a slow process, but she improved day after day. The man would come home at night, happily anticipating that day in the near future when she would come home with him. He could picture her walking through the door, sitting in her spot on the sofa, watering the plants that he’d forgotten all about while she’d been sick. She’d fuss at him for that, and that was just fine with him. “The house needs you,” he’d say in response. She’d smile as he would lean forward to kiss her cheek. “But I need you more."

Friday, July 8, 2011

Want to know which dog left that pile of poop on your lawn? Try DNA testing

            Don’t you just hate it when you step in a pile of dog poop on your way out to your mailbox or while strolling through your local park? Dumb question, huh?  Of course you do. I’m with you on that one. As much as I love dogs, I would prefer not to step in doggy doo-doo.

            I don’t blame the dog for making the pile. I blame the owner for not cleaning it up. I swear to you that on my last visit to Alexander Park, there was a pile right under the sign telling you to “do your doodie”. Even more annoying was the fact that there was a holder filled with plastic grocery bags clipped to the sign. How oblivious can you get?

            There is a solution to this annoying problem that is working well for large apartment complexes that allow pets. PooPrints, offered by BioPet, identifies the DNA in the poop and matches it to a DNA sample that the resident was required to leave as part of the lease agreement. The DNA test, proven to be 99.9% accurate, determines which resident “forgot” to bring a baggie when walking his dog. The resident is fined $100 per incident.

            Isn’t that ingenious? Apartment complex managers who use the system say that it works. They don’t want to fine their residents; they just want to “encourage” pet owners to clean up after their pets. PooPrints provides the “kick in the pants” that some pet owners need. I like it.

            While I can give you a 100% guarantee that you will never step in my dog’s poop, I can’t help you clean up your local park.  PooPrints is not a practical solution for a public place. You can try handing a baggie to the next idiot you see walking away from his dog’s pile of poop. You can add more signs and holders filled with baggies, but as I mentioned earlier, you might just find a pile of doo-doo at the base of the sign.

            Some final words of wisdom on the subject from Dr. Seuss: “I watched out for trouble in front and back sections by aiming my eyeballs in different directions.” Watch where you step.

Dr. Seuss quote is from I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What do "seine", "fid", and "snood" have in common? They're all words I don't know!

Article written by Chris Scullion            

            There are some "uncommon" and strange words in the English language. And between my father and my wife, they know them all.

            Take the word "seine", for instance.  Sure, it's a river in France.  But it's also an English word, meaning "a fishing net".  Dad brought that one up just the other day.  He also knows what a "fid" is... look it up... it's a word.  And don't play scrabble with my wife.  She knows the word "snood".  I used to doubt these people when we played word games, but no more.  They're always right.

            Now I'm no slouch when it comes to the English language (that is to say, I am no abecedarian).  I can tell you what a mumpsimus is, and that I am not one (that I know of).  And I'll bet you used an aglet today without even knowing that it was called that.  There’s nothing like a good pre-jentacular crossword puzzle to sharpen the vocabulary and start your day off right.  Try it for yourself sometime. Your little gray brain cells will leap in happy felicity.

Monday, July 4, 2011

What Would John Adams Say?

            John Adams sat in his accustomed chair in Independence Hall and waited for the bell to toll at midnight. He knew it wasn’t “his” bell anymore – you couldn’t expect physical objects to last forever – but the chiming of the centennial bell in the tower meant as much to him, if not more, than the tones of the original Liberty Bell. His country had survived for 100 years. Now there was a bicentennial bell, too.  He smiled. This July 4th marked the 235th anniversary of the birth of the United States of America.

            There had been years when he hadn’t expected the country to survive. The Civil War had sickened him; it could have been avoided if he could have convinced his fellow congressmen to abolish slavery. That first July 4th should have been about freedom for all men who lived in this land. It hadn’t been though, and it was inevitable that future Americans would have had to correct this terrible wrong. The price had been astronomical, but John had been relieved when freedom had prevailed and the union had survived. He wondered what his peers would have said if he had been able to tell them that there would be an African-American president in the year 2011.

            Yes, his country had come a long way. Now there were new challenges to face. Who would have expected that foreign policy would become even more complicated and dangerous than it had been 235 years ago? American soldiers were dying in distant lands and terrorists were preying on the American people in their own backyards. He blamed it on technological advances that no one who had lived in his time could even imagine. Far from the days when news took days, weeks, or months to arrive, people today could talk to someone on the other side of the world instantly. Ideas transferred, plots hatched, lessons taught – all in the blink of an eye. You could even get on a plane and be in England in 6 hours, although John didn’t see why you’d want to go there. He still held a bit of a grudge.

            The economy worried him, too. It was a big problem that there weren’t enough jobs. What had happened to the small businesses and small farms that had been the financial backbone of the country? He had been a proponent of a strong federal government, but there were times now when he thought that he may have been wrong. The government had overstepped its boundaries; it was too large and the taxes to support it were too high. Borrowing money from other countries to support the federal government had weakened the United States. The American people needed to wake up before they found themselves governed by someone else. His generation had fought for their freedom. It was time for this new generation to do the same.

            The centennial bell rang out the dawn of another July 4th.  He wished that he could help them fight, but he had long ago done all he could. He’d trust that the American spirit would live on. Americans would continue to live free, strong, and proud. They just had to want it badly enough. He suspected that they did.

            Celebrate freedom, America.

Friday, July 1, 2011

There are no acceptable excuses for not reporting to jury duty in Massachusetts

            When Michael Wylie of Massachusetts received his jury summons, he was in Hospice care with terminal cancer. He – believe it or not – failed to report for jury duty. A few months later, Mr. Wylie passed on.

            Massachusetts has continued to send nasty-grams to Mr. Wylie for 5 years now despite the fact that the family notified the state about Mr. Wylie’s death. Apparently, Mr. Wylie did not file the correct paperwork to prove that he was dead, so the state never took him off the jury rolls. Criminal charges are now pending against the late Mr. Wylie.

            At least the state will know where to find Mr. Wylie when they go to apprehend him. It is doubtful that Mr. Wylie has moved anywhere since his family laid him to rest 5 years ago. I suspect he won’t appreciate being dragged to jury duty in his present state, though.

Don’t you just love bureaucracy? Those are your tax dollars at work, people.