Monday, June 29, 2015

The Day I Went Psycho

It was the last day of school, a work day for teachers.  That usually entails that our classrooms are packed up for the summer and we have returned all borrowed materials to the book room or the library, cleared all debts with the front office, and turned in our lesson plan books and student grades to the principal or her designee.
Teachers usually start preparing for this big day a month or so in advance; after all, it is a tremendous amount of work to get done in one 8-hour day.
Most principals I worked for did not keep the teachers past noon, though the work day is a paid contract day.  It makes up marginally for all the hours and weekends teachers spend throughout the school year doing work on their own time.
By the time I had cleared my room and locked it for the last time, it was close to eleven. I started my “stations of the cross,” going from one to another getting the mandatory initials on my checkout list – the librarian, my department chair, the front desk, etc. I was down to the lady in charge of student grades, and the final stop – shaking hands with the principal – when the grade woman closed her office and went to lunch.
          She went to lunch.
          Some of the folks in line gave up and went to lunch too, but I stayed. Her usual lunch “hour” was only thirty minutes, so I was determined to be there when she returned.  I moved up several places and the handful of us tried to make ourselves comfortable.  
          She and her pals came back seventy minutes later, laughing gaily, while the few of us diehards were fighting growling tummies and sugar lows.
          The group she was with was a handful of young teachers who considered themselves the “cool” teachers.  The type who if one does not recognize their coolness, they will announce it straight out. Everyone else is laughable and does not deserve to breathe their air.
          The few of us stood from where we had leaned, sat, or drooped.  At last, the grade lady was back.  But then she did the unforgiveable – she let her “cool” friends go to the head of the line.  She was too stupid to know they let her in their clique so she would grant them favors. She was no cooler than the rest of us; she was just a chump.
          I erupted. I cussed. (I will not write the word here, but believe me, it was NOT ladylike.) I called them spoiled brats and entitled snobs, and showed them where the end of the line “blank” was.
The cool teachers looked at me from the end of their cool noses. Who was I to tell them what to do? I charged at them and they backed off in their cool high heels and expensive sneakers. Another teacher in line tried to intervene.  She danced between us and made her Rodney King speech of “Can we not get along?”
          I ranted about having to wait more than one hour while the grade lady went to lunch with these “blankety blanks,” and now they were cutting into the front of the line?  I. Did. Not. Think. So!
I charged at them again.
          Our principal peeked out from her office and smiled at me.  We had been friends for a very long time, so she knew about my psycho side.  She did not intervene; she just watched.
          The cool teachers scampered off, saying things under their breath about old dinosaurs and crazy old hags, but I did not care. The grade lady slunk into her office and was very polite when it was my turn to meet with her. She signed my form.
          The principal and I shook hands after I gave her my completed checklist.  She asked if I was okay.
          “I’m cool.” I said and we both smiled.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Babysitting for One Hundred and Ninety-two Hours Straight

Two weeks ago, our oldest granddaughter came over to help me babysit her two youngest cousins.  Knowing the intrepid personality of our three-year-old grandson and the strong will of his one-year-old sister, I was going to need back up.
While Mommy and Daddy took off for a one-week cruise of the Caribbean to “get away from it all and reconnect,” HoneyBunch and I (mostly I) were jumping into the thick of it.
I’ve babysat before plenty of times, but not for eight days and eight nights straight.  That’s one hundred and ninety two (192) hours! This would be the longest time ever for me without some sort of respite – nights off or maybe a weekend in between there somewhere without two munchkins watching me use the bathroom.  We usually watch the babies over a weekend so HoneyBunch is home from work and helps with the diapering or he provides entertainment, but this gig would run from one Friday through the next Saturday a week later, ergo the need to hire a “mommy’s helper.”
Thank goodness our oldest grandchild is in high school; she is about to take Driver’s Ed and her wish list includes clothes, cars, and cosmetics. 
She is the oldest to three little brothers and she needed the money and was willing to sacrifice her sanity for one week to earn some, so I “hired” her to help me for five of the eight days.
The week went as I suspected.  The three-year-old was intrepid and the one-year-old was strong willed.  Both fought sleep and sought adventure. Both made sure we “grownups” knew who ran things.
By Friday the fifteen-year-old missed home. 
Better the little brothers you know than the little brothers you don’t.
When I let her know twenty-four hours ahead of time when we would be returning her to her home on Friday, she fired up both her cell phone and her iPod – the modern versions of smoke signals or jungle drums among the young. A smile reappeared on her haggard face.  There was a skip in her step and she started speaking in future tense. “I am going to miss these babies.”  “I will remember this summer always.” 

Yeah, sure.

I couldn’t blame her.  As a matter of fact, I envied her as we drove away from her home and headed back with the two babies jabbering away in the back seat of the truck.  I still had twenty four hours ahead of me without a mommy’s helper, but at least I too could start talking in future tense. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Understanding Writer’s Platform

Most people vote in elections for the person who has made his/her name the most visible on social media, someone with whom they identify.
Other than family and a pocketful of indebted friends, very few vote for Mr. or Ms. Name Less. No Names are usually the bottom lot, forgotten by the press when election results are tallied and posted.
A Writer’s Platform works the same as a politician’s platform. It relies on the same principles. The writer has to establish a public persona, one that makes the writer’s name not only recognizable but THE preferred choice of many.
When a person prepares to vote (it does not matter – mayor, governor, president), the voter studies (hopefully) the candidates. The person researches, gathers information, and observes through the only means available for most of us – regular media (TV and newspapers) and social media (media that allows for two-way communication).  The candidates’ platforms - voting records, their public statements, their integrity (or lack of) - are on display. Candidates are eliminated and the voter chooses the person who best represents his or her own interest.
Likewise with a writer’s platform -  
When a publisher, editor, or agent decides who to contract as a writer, or when a reader reaches for a piece of writing to read, they will most often choose someone with an established presence, someone who has acquired an audience.  They will choose a writer whose platform they recognize and with whom they identify. They will choose a person who they enjoy, someone with a distinct voice, an ability to say something in a unique, new, and interesting manner.
 Like a politician, a writer must make him or herself visible to the public. There are many different forms available.  Research states that serious writers who are establishing a platform should make themselves available on at least two social media outlets, choosing the two that best fit their personality and their product.  The introverted writers have the option to choose two social media outlets that fit their personality and the extroverted writers can choose two that fit theirs.

Remember, most overnight successes take years to develop, so start now on establishing your writer’s platform.     

Monday, June 1, 2015

Forty-Something Father’s Day Gift Ideas

My dad graciously accepted our gifts.  Year after year, my siblings and I would give him the de rigueur ties, shirts, monogrammed handkerchiefs. There was the occasional mug or T-shirt with “The World’s Greatest Dad” printed on the front. He appreciated the cakes and the barbecues. He loved gifts of chocolate and caramels and fancy peanuts.
He always thanked us for remembering.  He came to expect certain things.  He could always use another nice dress shirt.  He lived in the day that gentlemen carried handkerchiefs in their pockets.  He was health conscious so he depended on us to supply him with foods he would not buy for himself.
As a wife and mother, I always find it difficult to shop for the men in my family. I have an easier time buying for the women because I usually get what I would enjoy.  It also helps to keep eyes and ears open for what they might need or want.  Listen and watch all year long and you will be better prepared when it comes time to choose gifts.
Here are some suggestions that might spark some gift ideas for the men in your life that do not include a gift card or some expensive electronic device, something other than a mug or a T-shirt with “The World Greatest Day” monogrammed on the front. Those are still fun, but you might want to leave that for the card that accompanies the gift.
* Two tickets to a game, regardless the future date
* A sports jersey, a nice polo, or pajamas of his favorite team, favorite sport, or favorite college/university
* One of those huge, multipurpose flashlights, or a spray gun, or a sander, or that one necessary tool that always gets lost (at our house it’s the Phillips head screwdriver.)
* For the computer/techie in your life, get those mini-sets of tools or Allen wrenches that one needs for those tiny spaces.
* For the cook/head barbecue master, that one utensil he has always wanted or the knife that slices like butter through roasts; or spices, especially the new trendy, “manly” grill spices
* For the fisherman, a new pole, or reel, or fish finder, or a new fish scaling knife
* Camping gear or survival gear, especially things that do not require batteries.  They make crank flashlights and crank emergency radios. How about netting, bird calls, sleeping bags, etc.?
* For the hunter, scopes, and motion-detector cameras, or gun cleaning kits
* Shoes.  A comfy set of slippers or slip ons.  New gym shoes or hiking/hunting boots.  How about rain boots?
* Games.  Not necessarily a new video game, but board games or card games. 
* Hair trimmers, beard and moustache trimmers, new shavers, handheld shower massagers.
* Food.  Besides the traditional dinner, either home cooked or dinner out, find what Dad likes that would be a real treat: pistachios, meats that come packaged with specialty mustards, fruit baskets, or specialty cakes.
*Kitchen appliances like smoothie makers, or single coffee machines, or juicers.  We certainly want to keep Dad healthy after all that Father’s Day food.
            What does the Father in your life like?  What are his hobbies? What would you suggest would make a thoughtful, different Father’s Day gift? We could all use your ideas to help make this Father’s Day a success.