Monday, May 25, 2015

Moving On: A Magpie Tale

She'd been hanging her hat in the same place for a long time.  So long, in fact, that her thoughts had become as worn as the hat.  It was time to move on.  Picking up her carpet bag and umbrella, she donned the hat one last time as she closed the door on her past.

Still Life, 1907 by John Frederick Peto 

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Tess over at Willow Manor has been providing inspiration for bloggers with her photo prompts on a site called Magpie Tales.  Stop over to check out who else was inspired this week.  This week's image was perfect for me as I set up a new blog site, Welcome to the Crap Shack.  (More information below.)

We're Moving!

I've done it again.  I've totally screwed up my life.  Well, not my whole life, but I did screw up my google account.  As a result, I decided I'd better find another way to sign into my blog, so I'm moving the entire thing to a new domain.

If you're looking for me, you might try the following links:

(I'll be transferring my old blog posts to this site.)


(For any new crap I deem worth sharing.)

Thanks to my old college friend, Jim Raife, for supplying the new background photo for this site!

So, come on over and sit a spell... there's a rusty old lawn chair waiting for you.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

My Life as a Juror

I just heard that my blogger friend, Linda Medrano, is in the midst of jury duty.  Most people dread the prospect.  Not me. Call me crazy, but I enjoy jury duty. And not just because it gets me out of work for a few days. No, it's because jury duty allows me to live the "Law and Order" dream... all the nitty gritty details of the case are revealed to you as you ponder whether to let the guy off or fry his ass.

It was about eight years ago that I got a summons from federal court.  As an open-minded, upstanding citizen, I was snapped up right away for a drug and weapons case. The first day was taken up with jury selection.  A slew of prospective jurors was paraded through the courtroom as people gave the judge excuses as to why they couldn't stay to enjoy the festivities.  It took an entire day just to find twelve of us, along with two substitutes, who had boring enough lives that we didn't mind spending the next two weeks with other like-minded boring people.  

There's a lot of down time when you're on a jury.  Half our time was spent sitting around in the jury room, noshing on snacks and doing crossword puzzles and reading while the lawyers hashed stuff out with the judge away from our prying eyes and ears.  The hardest part was not being able to go home and gossip about all the gory details with friends and family. (We weren't sequestered, but we had to pinky swear that we wouldn't talk about the case with anyone.)

Anyway, the highlights of the case for me were seeing all the charts and graphs and 8 x 10 color glossy photographs of the crime scene with circles and arrows and all that shit. Shell casings in kitchen drawers, loaded weapons laying around on couches next to empty Doritos bags and pizza boxes, baggies of drugs thrown down heat vents, more weapons thrown up on closet shelves.  Damn, those guys know how to decorate! The most appalling thing was seeing the photos of live ammunition thrown in a baby carrier. (For me, reason enough to lock the guys up and throw away the key.) Then there was getting the play-by-play of the raid and learning about flash-bangs and battering rams and all that good stuff from the SWAT team guys.  That's when the maps and diagrams of the crime scene came into play. (Sadly, though, no appearance by Officer Obie or any of the Law and Order gang.)

Finally, after a week and a half of all this swell entertainment, we got our instructions from the judge and were locked in the jury room.  As we were deliberating, we could ask to see any of the evidence. The only restriction was that we couldn't have the guns and the ammunition at the same time.  Go figure. Nobody wanted to admit it at first, but what we really wanted to see was the crack cocaine and the cut away pop bottles that the defendants stored their merchandise in. Why?  Obviously, those of us who lead such sheltered lives were damned curious about what it looked like. I have to give credit to the drug dealers...those bottles were actually quite ingenious. And now I know what those teeny tiny baggies I occasionally see littering parks are. The things you learn!

All, in all, I found jury duty to be quite exhilarating and the judge made us feel proud that we were doing our civic duty. The government even sprang for dinner while we were deliberating. The only time I had a moment's pause was after the trial was over.  The judge came in to talk to us and answer any remaining questions we had about serving on the jury.  Then he said there was an officer available to escort us to our cars as we left.  Huh?  You mean there's danger involved?  Weren't the guys led away in handcuffs?  Turns out the family members who were wailing in court as the verdict was read were probably pissed. Now I get it... Oh, crap!

So, Linda, enjoy your time on the jury.  Hopefully you'll enjoy it as much as I did.  And when I finally get to come visit, we can sit around and drink and trade stories and laugh about it together. That is, if you make it to your car safely.  Good luck with that.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

In Which I Learn The Customer is NOT Always Right

You know how every once in a while, something hits you smack in the face and knocks you for a loop?  A couple of weeks ago a friend posted this article on Facebook:  The Top 5 Reasons "The Customer is Always Right" is Wrong.  For most people, it was an "interesting article."  For me, it was an eye-opener as to why I don't make a good administrator.

I still have angst over my time as the director of a small, private school.  I had been a teacher there for over ten years and when the director left I thought I might be able to take on a new role.  I was recently divorced and ready for a change.

Big mistake!

The trouble was, I was a people pleaser.  I felt I needed to be able to please everyone, but in the end I ended up pleasing no one.  Without meaning to, my efforts to satisfy the parents, (i.e. the customers,) ended up discounting my most important resource... the wonderful teachers with whom I had always enjoyed a collegial relationship.  By trying to help resolve a few parents' unreasonable issues, I created a hostile environment for the people I should have been protecting.  No longer was the school I adored a fun and generative place for me to be.  I had gone from being a popular teacher to being "The Man". After three years of ever increasing anxiety over my inability to pull families and teachers together toward a common goal, I was a basket case.  I knew it was time for me to leave.

I've been recovering from this experience for the past five years and while I knew I had gotten past the initial heartbreak and regained most of my confidence, I was still uneasy. Then came this article, which made me slap my forehead and say, "Duh!  Of course!"  It all made sense.  As a result, I think I have finally been able to bring some closure to that episode in my life.

It's not easy for me to admit openly that I was such a complete and utter failure at something.  (I don't think that's ever easy for anyone.)  But it's important for my growth to do so.  I owe a deep and sincere apology to each of the fine teachers who were a part of the school at that time.  I let you down at a time when you needed propping up and for that I am truly sorry.

Yet as painful as my administrative experience was, I wouldn't be the same person I am today without it.  Happily, I can now say that I am thriving once again in the classroom.  Not only that, since leaving my old school I have become a much better teacher.  The work I have done with active participatory learning and conflict resolution in my new classroom has clarified for me what it means to be a teacher.  I am filled with gratitude that I have been able to learn from a painful experience and that I am once again where I was always meant to be.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Hint Fiction

Speeding down the hill on her bicycle, she threw up her arms and yelled, "I love life!" just as the branch fell from the tree.

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Jayne got tired of us sitting around on our butts, not writing anything, so she gave us a challenge... Hint Fiction!  Tell just a hint of a story in 25 words or less.  Check out the others who played over at injaynesworld.  

Looking Her Best: A Magpie Tale/Hint Fiction Entry

It was always important to her to look her best.  Especially this one last time.

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So, Jayne offered us a writing challenge this past week.  Hint Fiction: a 25 word or less tale that leaves things open to interpretation.  Then today Tess put up this image as a Magpie Tales prompt.  The two go hand in hand!  Check out both their sites to see who else took up the gauntlet.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

"Wooters' Hooters" or "That time when my boob went to Florida without me"

I took another little detour from life recently, thanks to the wonders of modern medicine. For three weeks, no matter the weather, (and there WAS weather,) I faithfully showed up at the Lipson Cancer Center every morning at 8:15 for radiation treatment.

Let me tell you, it's all fun and games at the radiation department. You get to get tattoos, get naked, (well, partially,) and chill out to some pretty radical light shows. I was affectionately know as "Woot" by Sam, Paul & Amanda, the radiation technicians. They were quick to tell me I had "the best name, EVER!" I'm guessing it tickled their fancy to say they were treating Wooters' Hooters.

Anyway, I'd lay down on the table, put my arms above my head, and after lining things up with my new tattoos, they'd start drawing circles and X's on my boob with a sharpie to show where to shoot those ray beams. After they were done, they'd scurry out of the room and I'd lay perfectly still while the monster machine rotated around me and zapped the hell out of my boob.  

Basically easy and painless. No side effects other than a bit of fatigue, so I continued working full-time throughout the treatments.  

About a week after I "graduated" my boob began to get tender and change color, just as the doctor told me it would. Yes, my cancer boob started to look like it went to Florida without me. I slathered it with aloe vera lotion which helped a bit.  Next it got all raw and wearing a bra became impossible. Once that phase was over, I developed thick, dark, leathery skin all around the nipple and things started to itch.  Good times.

Now things are pretty much back to normal. For the time being anyway. Next up on the schedule... anti-estrogen meds for the next five years. Common side effects from those... same as menopause symptoms, particularly hot flashes. Been there, done that so I know what it feels like. It will seem like Florida in August all over again. Oh joy, oh rapture.

So look out world... my inner bitch is ready to rock and roll!

Friday, February 28, 2014

On the Road with 30M2DoW: Final Episode

T.S. Eliot was sadly mistaken.  April is not the cruelest month.

February had been brutal.  I spent the entire month trying to outrun Nicky Eff, perpetrator of the most heinous crime to hit the internet this decade.

In the end, to resist had been futile.  Nicky had me dead to rights, right there in the hydrangeas.  There was nothing for it... I had to write something for her 30 Minus 2 Days of Writing challenge.  That was the only way to get her to leave me in peace.  (And get my clothes back.)

But wait...  from out of the shadows stepped another figure, this one in a trench coat and fedora.  Yes, it was Jack Gouda.  Ever the gentleman, he took off his trench coat and handed it to me, saying, "Here, toots, put this on. Don't embarrass yourself any further, eh?"  (I noted that he didn't think that Katherine and Reffie should be at all embarrassed.)

"Please," I said.  "Put me out of my misery!  You're the only one who can."

With that, Gouda drew his .44 Magnum from his holster and leveled it at me.

And then my brain exploded.

Out spewed every single one of the prompts Nicky had listed for the 30 Minus 2 Days of Writing challenge.  And each one plastered itself onto the laptop Nicky was so conveniently holding.

Not only that... Henry, Max, Dufus, Maryse, Bud, Linda, Jayne, Margaret, Ramon, Reffie, Cooter and the gang, Katherine... they were all there.

Yes, Nicky finally succeeded in having her way with me and it would be a long time before I recovered from the trauma.

So take it from me, dear readers... the next time someone invites you to participate in a writing challenge, be afraid.  Be very afraid!

And don't say I didn't warn you.

Never to be continued.... I hope.

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Now, get yourself over to the Cheese Shack one last time to see who else participated in the 2nd/3rd Annual 30 Minus 2 Days of Writing extravaganza.  (And while you're there, order up a commemorative t-shirt from P.J.!)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

On the Road with 30M2DoW: Episode 27

How did you find out?

There we were, Katherine, Reffie and I, laughing hysterically in the hydrangeas.  We had no idea how we were going to get home without any clothes, not to mention the fact that we had no idea where in the hell we were.  All we did know was that we didn't much care what anyone thought of us anymore.

Maybe it was the anticipated end of this interminable writing challenge that was making us giddy. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to come up with something profound (or even stupid) to say about a prompt thought up by someone you've never even met, day after day after day after day after day?

Just as we were catching our collective breath again, there was a voice from outside the foliage.

"Looking for these?"

Our clothes were being dangled over our heads.  Worse, next to our clothes was Axe-Murderer-Fake-Barbie!

Oh, no!  It couldn't be!  And yet it was...


"How did you find out where I was this time?" I moaned.

To be continued...

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There aren't too many more chances to see who actually agreed to participate in the 30 Minus 2 Days of Writing challenge.  Head over to We Work for Cheese before it's too late!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

On the Road with 30M2DoW: Episode 22, 23, 24, 25, 26... Whatever

There we were, nearing the end of the 30 Minus 2 Days of Writing challenge and I had yet to succumb to to Nicky's demand that I participate.  Although I was perturbed with Nicky's persistence in trying to track me down, I had to admit it had been a blast hanging out with some of the folks out there along the way.  So much drama, though...

I kept telling myself, "It's only a dream."  It wasn't possible that Nicky would continue to show up in so many places.  And yet is seemed every time I turned around, there she'd be again!

There are things you don't do... attach threatening notes to hunks of cheese, send your kid to  demolish cars and kidnap people, become a peeping Nicky, show up at a dinner party unannounced.  I mean, really... how gauche!  Then again, maybe it's just a Canadian thing.

After the "lost weekend" at the Rack 'n Roll, it was time to move on before Nicky saw Ramon's light display on social media and figured out where I was again.  So Reffie, Henry and I headed east.  (Ramon stayed behind as Ethyl hired him on as the full time lighting specialist at the Rack 'n Roll.)

We didn't stop until we hit the Outer Banks where we ran into Katherine.  We were sitting out on Corolla Beach, enjoying some beers and a few shots of tequila when I mentioned to Katherine how exhausted I was from this whole ordeal. And then she said, maybe we should go all Axe-Murderer-Fake-Barbie on Nicky's ass.  Sort of like a "Chucky" remake thing.  "Or at least steal her shoes," offered Reffie, "She can't go anywhere without her bitchin' shoes."

(If Fake Barbie can go this bad ass with nails, imagine what she could do with an axe.)
The more we drank, the better our ideas sounded.  We were walking along the beach, talking and laughing and thinking up stupid stuff to do to Nicky.  The weather had turned unseasonably warm, so we shed our shoes and sweaters.  One thing led to another and before we knew what happened, we were naked and lost.

To be continued...

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Now that I've caught you up with what's been happening on the road, head over to We Work for Cheese to catch up with the bonafide participants of this writing extravaganza.
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