It’s Raining Boys – (MYoM – Intermission)

As an educator I deal with children every day. The hardest part of the job is when conflicts arise among them. As the only adult in the room, I am always evaluating when and how to step in. At what point do I say “Enough is enough!”? Lately, this has become an issue both during and after the school day (when I come home and catch up with the latest news from home).

The boys in the two Primary classes have been rambunctious lately. To make matters worse, it has been raining non-stop for quite a while, which means they can’t go outside and run off their aggression during recess. So petty bickering quickly turns into obnoxious taunts and threatens to deteriorate even more. If this keeps up, I won’t be surprised to find these children in an outright brawl.

The latest tussle was started a while ago by little Donny (who is a bit of a bully) running around and calling all the other boys names. When anyone protested, he just doubled down and tried to get the rest of the kids to laugh along with him. Unfortunately there were a few who did. Donny’s favorite victim was Johnny Ellis whom he picked on mercilessly. Johnny’s reaction was to turn around and pick on his younger neighbor, Marco. That made Marco go after his rival Raphael who ran to the teacher to tell on them all. Little bully Donny called Raphael a liar and then turned around and started mimicking and ridiculing Marco. Johnny gave up the fight and left the classroom, leaving the other three to duke it out. Donny started squirting water around. Marco retaliated by telling everyone that Donny is a bad speller and that he wets his pants. Enter Davey in his neat white hoodie. He says he likes Donny and will be on his side. And he’s got a lot of friends who know how to take care of people like Marco and Raphael. A trump card, so to speak – something Donny wants to keep up his sleeve. That’s where things stand today.

Tomorrow is Tuesday and we’ll see what happens. To be honest, I am almost dreading it. There is more rain in the forecast – nothing super about that. I’m not sure how much more of these childish conflicts I can take. Enough is enough!

Election 2016. My Year of Mortification.


omiliMy husband’s family has given different names to various female relatives – there was no “Mama”, but there was a “Mutti”, a “Grossmutti”, an “Omi”, an “Uromi” etc. . . . It was Omili who would become my mother-in-law – or at least that is what I have been calling her for the past 30 years. Today at her 80th birthday party, I found out that it is actually spelled “Omeli”. I guess it is never too late to learn something new – even if I won’t go so far as to change what is now my own personal name for her.
In honor of her birthday, I am going to write a few select thoughts and memories – two of which, oddly enough, have to do with laundry.

My very first impression was made before we had even met and it turned out to be totally wrong. I was at my (later-to-be-) husband’s apartment as he was packing up things to take home to his parents for the weekend. I watched him throw dirty laundry into a bag.

“Oh, do you do your laundry at your parents’ house?” I asked him.

“No, my mom does it,” he answered, which made me laugh out loud. He stopped what he was doing and looked at me with a confused expression on his face.

“What is so funny about that?” he asked. It was my turn to stare.

“Well . . . you are kidding, right?” It dawned on me that he wasn’t. So I added “I mean, you are 26 years old. Your mom still does your laundry?”

“She . . . she likes to do it!” he said. In all seriousness.

Oh boy. What was this woman going to make of me?

The thing is, in all the years since this day, she never once gave me the feeling that she disapproved of me or the way I live my life (married or otherwise). I felt at times that there were some raised eyebrows and judgments coming from other corners, but never from her. Not when my husband and I moved into together before we were even engaged (- in fact, I think she was the first person to suggest the idea!) Not when my husband basically took over the job of cooking in our household. Not when she had to take on the entire planning and execution of my wedding because I was in over my head (and useless to boot). Not during the eleven years of childlessness my husband and I went though. Not when, 7 years into our marriage, I took off for the States for a year to finish my Master’s Degree. Not when my husband and I brought two Ethiopian children into the clan. In fact, she even seemed to get a kick out of our unconventional arrangements. My husband used to joke that if we ever got into an argument, she would probably take my side. It wasn’t inconceivable.

“C. I have to tell you something,” Omili said to me one day, shortly after my return from my year in the States. “While you were away, (my husband) brought dirty laundry here once on the weekend. I told him to just throw it on the bathroom floor and I would do it later. He said ‘I can do it myself!’ and he did!” The smile on her face made it clear how much she liked that.

I have been known to say that my husband inherited the best qualities from each of his parents. From his father, he got his sentimentality and strong sense of family; he gets his seemingly endless reserves of energy and athleticism from his mom. At 80, her greatest passion is a nice 18-hole round of golf. Probably followed by a quick swim, some gardening and housework and then cooking a meal . . . I’m in awe. I’d love to say that I hope I will still be so energetic and active when I am her age, but, let’s face it – that’s not very realistic. Just thinking about that amount of activity already makes me feel tired. On the other hand – if Omili has taught me anything, it is that it is never too late to learn something new . . . except, maybe, spelling.

Grand Theft Notebook – (MYoM – Part 25)

(This post is going to get me into so much trouble! Wait for it.)


Dani the Art teacher called me last night to talk about the boys in my class. (There are five of them who are all in the vicinity of 13 years old.) She had a terrible time getting them interested in her art lessons. She gave them several options and got five flat out rejections. She asked them what they might be interested in doing instead and got almost no response. They agreed to think about it and make a list by the end of the school day. No list was made.

Two nights earlier, there had been a parents’ evening and the subject of internet/computer games became a surprisingly hot topic among the parents of these same five boys. It made me think about my own lessons with them and realize how much harder it had become to motivate them in recent weeks. To begin with, they were always tired. (As I know now, it is because a lot of them are playing late into the night.) Secondly, the only topics that really seem to light their fires and get them talking are all related to computers and games. Unfortunately I am completely uncool in this area. I can hardly understand, much less participate in, their discussions of . . . Grand Theft Call of Mind Warcraft Duty. Or whatever.

As Dani and I were talking about how to deal with this situation, I suggested she try to find something that is related to what we are learning about in other subjects – and right now that is inventors and inventions. A few of the boys have shown signs of interest, even intrigue. Suddenly I remembered a book that my brothers had made when we were kids. They had designed and drawn complex machines for various silly purposes like feeding the dog or catching a mouse. They taped their designs into a notebook and called them “The Inventions of the Great 3N Company”. I described the designs a little to Dani and that got her mind racing toward a whole new set of ideas.

After the call, it occurred to me that I had seen this notebook fairly recently and that it could very well be in my own house that very instant. I went rummaging through shelves and boxes and files, and . . . wahlah!


Something about this book was special enough for me to let it travel eastward across the Atlantic to Austria after one of my visits home. I suppose I might have asked my brothers first if I could have it, but, let’s face it, that is doubtful. I more likely stole it – or let’s be generous and say “appropriated” it.

I wandered around my house looking for other objects I had appropriated over the years. It turned out to be quite a collection. My father’s dog tags and his commemorative university graduation beer stein. A friendship bracelet with his and my mother’s names engraved into it – which dates back to their high school years in the 1940s. A paperweight that stood on my grandfather’s desk and some ceramic dogs always on display in my grandmother’s bedroom. Treasurestreasures, all of them. Things I visited and revisited in my childhood, things I stared at and played with. Things that somehow captured my imagination and meant something to me.

Now that I have confessed to my crimes, I can only hope that my siblings did some appropriating of their own over the years. Surely these can’t be the only objects of our shared upbringing. She says hopefully.

I wonder if my five computer-crazed school boys can notice and be fascinated by such simple, real objects in the world around them. Or conversely, if 50 years from now, they will have memories and associations with whatever they are experiencing while looking into a screen for hours on end.

Will they keep memories like these in little treasure boxes and feel nostalgia when they rediscover them decades later?

Locutus Interruptus

What I really need right now is to go on an epic rant (a “questus an heroicos” in Latin – or at least that’s what the Google Translator tells me) about some work-related stuff, but the self-imposed rules of this blog won’t allow me to do that. So I am going to talk about “Star Trek Next Generation” instead.

My favorite episode is the one where Captain Picard goes all Borg and stops speaking for the crew. The whole ship is running on fumes (like my car was Monday morning – I should have realized that the “Empty Tank” light was a sign as well as a bad start to the two 15-hour days ahead of me . . . ) and for some reason the youngest member of the team, excuse me, I mean crew, Wesley Crusher, sort of decides he’s going to take command. And he starts ordering people around and Geordi LaForge is, like, What’s up with this shit?? And then they’re all in the observation lounge and every time Geordi wants to say something, Wesley or Commander Riker interrupts him – which drives him absolutely crazy! (Google Translator tells me the Latin term for this is “orationem interrumpunt” but I prefer my own creation “locutus interruptus” because it fits better with my extended metaphor here.) Anyway, then Wesley makes what boils down to an unfair accusation and Geordi really really needs to take an emergency cigarette break – excuse me, I mean he needs to check the warp engines, but then Counselor Troi steps in and calms the situation down. At least until Day Two when some kids are acting up in the classroom and Wesley tells Geordi to go take care of the problem even though he isn’t even on duty and he’s thinking Are you serious?! Luckily Captain Picard gets de-borged and stops with all the “You must assimilate and resistance is futile” crap and he and Geordi take a walk around the neighborhood, I mean the holodeck, and talk about authenticity, which sort of helps.


I’m not sure how it ends, but three weeks later they will all get a break on Risa, and just in time because the solution to most of their troubles is sleep.

Man that was a great episode.

What the Doctor Ordered

belt machineBeing in my 50s, I have lived through countless health and fitness–aerobics-jogging -wellness-yoga-zumba (plus about 15 more I haven’t included) crazes, each with its own special fashion accessories and miracle equipment. The oldest such machine I can remember was the butt vibrating belt of the 1960s – the mothers of some in my circle of friends had them. Even as a kid, this piece of equipment made me suspicious. I started monitoring my Suburban neighborhood but found no evidence of any butt shrinking generally going on.

I did dabble in this or that craze over the years. There was some jogging done, I remember, at least until that day a bug flew in my mouth and I realized how much I hated panting and sweating. The one Weight Watchers meeting I attended during my fat phase of high school was enough for me to decide that food intake could never be important enough to justify such detailed and constant monitoring. I discovered that frequent use of the bathroom scale led only to misery. Around the same time, I heard an interview with a doctor who said 30 minutes of physical activity each day, 5 of which have the heart pumping faster, are sufficient. It was what I wanted to hear and so I listened. Sports and diets were officially for other people.

My current daily physical fitness routine was established in June 1989 with the arrival of Dog One and has not changed substantially since. In earlier days, the walks varied a lot in length and the route chosen. In the past five or six years, though, I have always had an older dog with less stamina to walk, so 99 times out of 100, it has just been “around the cornfield”. So here’s the walk I have done roughly . . . 5000 (?) times (- and thanks to Lyart, who joined me today and took some of the pictures):

The walk begins down our drive to the signpost . . .
. . .passing my 50th birthday present along the way. It’s my Life Tree – the Weeping Willow – and it is thriving (- thank goodness!)
Instead of entering the woods, we take a sharp left at the signpost . . .
. . . and follow the tractor trail at the bottom edge of our property. I always admire the American-style screen porch (on the left) – another 50th birthday present.
As the trail curves, mean neighbor lady's house comes into sight. Dog Four takes off toward her compost heap. Dog Four - a bit freaked out - stays near me.
As the trail curves, mean neighbor lady’s house comes into sight. Dog Four takes off toward her compost heap. Dog Three – a bit freaked out – stays near me. MNL has never liked her and the feeling is mutual.
We keep as far right as possible as we pass the house. This is where the 5 minutes of faster heart pumping begins. It ends at the top of the hill. Sometimes Dog Three picks a fight with the horses or cows in the fields along the way. They don’t take her seriously. At the end of the fence . . .
. . . comes the first sign I ignore. (It says “Please keep your dog on a leash!”)
Having successfully passed MNL’s house, Dog Four rejoins us and it is time for some play.
Nearing the top of the hill now. Today the visibility is good and we can see the most distant line of mountains – the snow-capped ones.
We turn right at the hunter’s perch next to the second sign I ignore . . .
It says “Private Property – No Trespassing!” The dogs usually zip in there quick anyway to steal a corncob from the deer feeder. But not today.
This is the spot where my American visitors tend to bring up “The Sound of Music.” Some of them even hum “The Hills are Alive” and begin to twirl.
Dog Three starts to get tired and wonders why the little turd doesn’t have to wear a leash.
At the end of the field we turn right again and join one of the official hiking trails of the region – the Fiver Trail. Since 5 is the equivalent of an American grade of “F”, that makes this the “Path to Failure”.
Along this bit, Dog Three tries to pick a fight with the Highland cattle (when they are there.) They don’t take her seriously. All four of my dogs learned the Lesson of the Electric Fence on this leg.
Shortly before returning to Mean Neighbor Lady’s House, Dog Four goes on the leash and starts running in circles around us. My turn to twirl.
We retrace our steps back home, where Mr. Bird welcomes us back.

About “About”

Almost since the beginning of my blogging career, I have been thinking I should explain the image on my “About” page:

Poussin - Inspiration of the Poet

It is called “The Inspiration of the Poet” and was painted by a Frenchman named Nicolas Poussin in the 1600s. It hangs in the Louvre where I first saw it and fell inappropriately and blindly in love. The “blind” part has to do with the fact that I interpret the picture in my own idiosyncratic way and no one can tell me I am wrong – like quite a few college professors tried to do when they didn’t agree with my interpretation of a poem or a novel. “Hey – communication is a two way street. It needs an encoder and a decoder and so if that is the way I read it, then that is what it says,” I didn’t reply to a single one of them. In the case of this painting, I decode several subliminal messages. No matter what Wikipedia says, this is NOT Apollo about to have one of his Cupid babies crown a 17th century poet with laurels, because:

  1. Apollo looks tired and bored.
  2. The poet has a stupid look on his face and a blank page in front of him. He is looking up into the sky at the place where OneTrueGod might be instead of the thing in front of his face.
  3. Flying Cupid is trying to figure out what the poet is looking at and hesitating with the laurels.
  4. Muse girlfriend looks irritated. She’s been waiting for quite a while. Notice the crossed legs.

Years ago, my husband heard me talking about this painting with my sister. At the time, her hobby was printing paintings like this on cloth and then embroidering over them. The results were little masterpieces and I was hoping to convince her to do this one for me. I should have been suspicious when my husband showed so much interest – even asking me how the name “Poussin” was spelled . . .

The following Christmas Eve he presented me my own copy. He had found a company that does copies of any classic painting on canvas. Apparently, they actually go to the museum where the original is hanging and digitally photograph it first – so I’m guessing it wasn’t cheap. But it was the thoughtfulness of the present that really bowled me over.

So now it is hanging in my living room and my love for it has remained deep and true. What I have come to like best is the look on people’s faces the first time they see it. These expressions range anywhere from “What in the heck is that?!” to “What in the heck is that?!”

There is a reason why I say my blog might be interesting for heathens.

American Heritage Challenge

For the past three hours, I have been in the mood to write, but for the life of me, I can’t think of a topic. Usually they just arrive and plop themselves down near my laptop. Today – there’s nothing. My mind keeps floating back to topics not fit for blogging. Maybe that is what writer’s block really is – preoccupation with That Which May Not Be Mentioned.

dictionarySo I am going to use a teacher trick. I’m going to open a dictionary to a random page and take the fifth word. I am going to do that three times. And those three words will determine what my post is about today.

Here we go. First word:

dictionary 1(Oh crap. This is going to be rough.) Second word:

dictionary 2(Should I just give up now?) Third word:

dictionary 3

Suddenly, this task has gotten easier. I actually used this last word in Tyrol – don’t ask me how the dinner conversation moved to this theme, but it really did. Maybe it was because my cousin’s fiancé who was in attendance is a policeman. I remember a joke being told about a woman being flashed and then suddenly remembering that she had forgotten to buy shrimp while at the store.

salsifyAnd speaking of seafood (nice transition there, hey?), I just learned of a European vegetable that tastes like oysters: the salsify. It being completely new to me, I googled for images and suddenly was back to the topic of exhibitionists – especially old ones.

And while I am on the subject of cranky old objects that aren’t used any more, remember way back when teachers handed out mimeographed copies in school? The first thing you did was hold it up to your nose and breathe in deeply. I doubt very much that people do that with salsifies. Or exhibitionists, for that matter.

Post-Team Sucking Disorder – (MYoM – Part 24)

One afternoon a week, the other teachers and I have a meeting to talk through school business and prepare stuff. We call it simply “Team” – as in “Do we have Team on Monday or Tuesday next week?” or “Let’s talk about that at the next Team.”

teamAs I have written before (“All Talked Out”) – every so often these meetings can go on ridiculously long, partly because we all lack discipline, but also because every last and tiniest decision is a group one. No, strike that. It’s because we all lack discipline.

My post yesterday was a demonstration of the effects of one of these Monster-Teams. The very long 12 hours at work had depleted my reserves of functioning brain cells almost entirely. Just sucked them all right out of my head. I then killed off the remaining few with a glass of red wine and went to bed. Woke up this morning with what felt like a case of PTSD. I was a walking zombie for most of the day.

Now that I have moaned a little, I confess that – for some strange, quite possibly demented reason – I still love this job.

The school is a little oasis of idealism in the Desert of Dark Times. We teachers all work many more hours than we are paid to do. We all let the job slosh over into our private lives to some extent. The kids all work too – not for grades or rewards or under pressure, but simply because that is what kids do when they don’t have a screen to look at or swipe. The parents also devote a lot of their free time to working for the school to keep it running and financially solvent. It’s a messy and improvised place, sometimes complicated, sometimes really complicated. Like Henslowe’s theater in “Shakespeare in Love” –

“The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster. . .

So what do we do?

shakespeareNothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.


I don’t know. It’s a mystery.”