Midnight madness

Gather round children, oh ye with aching feet and depleted pocketbooks. Most of you who are reading this have just awakened after your first round of napping. I know where you’ve been. I know what you’ve been doing. I know what you are.

Early birds.

If you think this blog does not apply to you, don’t stop reading. There is always the chance that you too could fall into danger next year and drink the Kook-Aid.

I don’t blame you. There was one a day when I too fell under the spell of desperate merchants tempting me with their buy-one, get-one-free one-day deals. But the truth is people just don’t think right at four a.m.

Now that you’re a little more clear headed, think with me. Did you really need that sweater or that toy? Did you get caught up in the frenzy and buy one of everything just so somebody else wouldn’t beat you to the punch?

And, hey, if I were to give you ten bucks, would you go stand in line two hours to buy one of those sweaters for me? No? Then why did you stand in line two hours this morning? Is ten bucks not worth your time? I’ll bet you’d consider paying somebody else twice that now to finish your shopping list.

I gave up early bird Black Friday shopping this year. Why? Because I found a mall where all the stores opened at ten p.m. Thursday. I’m a night owl anyway.

Before I left, however, I set some ground rules.

One, I reminded myself there was absolutely nothing I had to buy for me or anybody else. I was going for the sheer adventure of it.

Boy, was I stupid. I wore cowboy boots.

Okay, here’s the deal. I’m going to break a cardinal writing rule—don’t stray from the subject. But, hey, I’m driving this bus. Every now then it’s okay to take the scenic route.

See, I’ve had these boots for over year. They were a Christmas present from last year or the last. I haven’t worn them much. In fact, the only other time I’ve ever had cowboy boots was when I actually wore them to keep my feet from slipping through the stirrups when I was riding. But my absolutely adorable snuggly brown vest went so well with them, I wore them anyway.

Plus, there’s something about cowboy boots that’s empowering. I figured should I have to fight my way out of a mob of insane shoppers, I might as well be dressed for it. I only planned to shop for a couple of hours.

Again, stupid me.

The traffic was so backed up it took forever to get there. Then I had to wait in line forever in the cold because fire codes permitted a limited number of shoppers to enter each store at a time.

When I finally entered Old Navy, my eyes lit up. Mesmerized. Scarves! Only a dollar each. I grabbed an armful for everyone I knew. Then I looked at the line. It wrapped around the store twice. I came to my senses. I left.

I checked out several other stores, but again, I really wasn’t looking for anything except a little adventure, a little people watching. But everybody looked the same. They all had the same drop-jaw expression that said, “What am I doing here?”

I finally made my way to the Gap and endured the line. I figured I’d better bag something during my bargain hunt.

But my greatest act of stupidity was letting the aroma of coffee lead me to Starbucks. The line was out the door, for goodness sake! But I fell in line anyway. This is when I realized that my cowboy boots might come in handy despite my aching feet.

I was surrounded by a hundred caffeine addicts just dying to get a triple shot caramel latte. I found myself in the middle of several manly women discussing a Zombie run and their plans to check out an obstacle course the next day.

My greatest fear was the baristas would mix up my drink with theirs. The only advantage I had was my boots. There was no way I could outrun them even if I were wearing sneakers. I think one of them was a cage fighter.

Needless to say, my shopping experience was a bust.

I froze. My feet hurt. I waited nearly 45 minutes for a cup of coffee that was cold by the time I found my parking place, and I got so buzzed up on caffeine I couldn’t sleep once I finally made it to bed.

So children, those of you who make the vow to give up early bird shopping next year, don’ t be deceived by midnight madness. It is what it is.

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Plinky 11–What drives me crazy

I’m preparing for some intense writing—I should say re-writing—in the next couple of days. Before I get back to work, I thought I’d exercise my impromptu writing, and visit the Plinky prompts. 2011 has almost come to an end, and this may be the last time I’ll get to do a top 11 list. So here’s to Plinky and one of my last, if not the last, top eleven .

What drives me crazy?

Eleven
Driving into work and hearing nothing on the radio but talk or commercials

I can usually get a couple of good classic rock tunes in the morn before I punch in my favorite country station. I have a couple more on standby. WAY-FM won’t come in, so that’s not an option. If all else fails, I’ll try a contemporary station, but I turn it back to the commercials if Lady Gaga is on. Rah rah rah. Blech.

Ten
Reading instructions

I have no patience when putting stuff together. I bought a new desk light for my classroom the other day. I had to assemble it. First step? Toss the instructions. They made no sense anyway. I did fine until I got to the last step of screwing in the light bulb. I could not for the life of me figure it out. I had a doctor’s appointment the next day, so I left a note for my sub and requested help. The next day the light bulb was in. It never hurts to ask for help.

Nine
People assuming I’m stupid because I am instructionally challenged.

Yes, I am blond. Yes, I have trouble with my lefts and rights. Yes, I have trouble following directions. Yes, I have trouble with all of those things, but I am not dumb.

Eight
Not wearing earrings

I have a favorite pair of earrings that I wear almost every day unless I choose another pair that goes with a certain outfit. I can’t stand not wearing earrings. If I start my day without earrings, my day goes downhill.

Seven
Stress eating

I want to lose weight; I need to lose weight, but cortisol consumes me due to all the stress in my life. I really don’t eat much. I even skip meals. (I know—eating breakfast helps with weight loss.) But I turn to chocolate when I’m in survival mode. I’ve been known to beg, borrow, or steal when I’m really desperate.

Six
Skinny women on cop shows

I’ll bet all those uber thin actresses playing cops are like a size 2 or 0. You flaunt the fact that you can tuck in your shirts and wear belts around your flat bellies. Yeah, I know if I gave up the chocolate and returned to regular exercise I could get back to a size four. Those were the good old days and not so long ago. But you cop show chicks make me crazy. Okay, I’m jealous. I’m just not jealous enough to give up the chocolate—yet.

Five
Wearing socks that don’t match my outfit

I like color coordination. My closet is color coordinated. The files in my filing cabinet are color coordinated. When I’m wearing boots or clogs, I like for my socks to match the color of my shirt. It doesn’t matter if anyone else sees them. I know.  Being unmatched drives me crazy.

Four
Mysterious people

This could be good or bad. Everyone who crosses my path is like a character in my book, the life I’m living. I like to understand my characters, the ones I can trust, the ones I can’t. Mysterious people drive me insane. You keep me guessing and boost my imagination, but enough is enough already!  Illusionists drive me crazy too. I want to see what makes the magic.

And now for the top three things that REALLY drive me crazy

Three
Manipulative people

I don’t like being used, and I don’t like being a puppet. And most of the time, I can read manipulative people like a book. Just because I’m directionally challenged, kind, and patient doesn’t mean I don’t know I’m being played. I would rather bear the humilation of brute honesty than a lie that breaks my heart. Okay, I’ll admit I’m naive, super sensitive, and gullible at times, but eventually I catch on. On the flip side, if a manipulative person goes after one of my babies, the Mama in me comes out and whoa be unto the soul that tries to hurt one of my babies–biological babies or my students. 🙂

Two
Arrogant people

It’s simple. Arrogant people make me crazy. No matter how good, how smart, how rich, how talented, etc. Get the picture?

One
Mean people

Taylor Swift, you got this one right. I’ve always stood up for the underdog. Mean people are the antipathy of love. Loving people are patient, kind, and humble. Mean people are envious, lying, arrogant, hateful, hurtful, violent, and vengeful. “Why you got to be so mean?”

And now it’s your turn. What makes you crazy?

One more totally inappropriate blog

I should write a blog about blogs a writer should never write. Every day I come up with yet something else that’s not printable.

Don’t jump to conclusions. I’m not talking about X-rated or even R-rated material. I’m talking about the stupid, “you-had-to-be-there” kind of ideas that only you and your dog—or cat—would find hilarious.

But  considering the kind of week I’ve had, I am breaking my “no rant, no stupid” blogging rule, and I’m ranting about a topic that’s dear to my heart—and other body parts.

The bathroom.

Most of you have “normal” jobs. I am a teacher. There is nothing normal about being a teacher. We never grow up. We’re conditioned like Pavlov’s dog to respond to bells, and if we know in advance we’re going to kick the bucket, we’d better turn in our lesson plans a day early.

And we teachers have limited privileges.

“Yeah, right. I’d like to have a two-month vacation,” you say.

Believe me. We pay for our two-month “vacation,” both literally and figuratively. We don’t work 9-5, or even 8-3. We take our work everywhere we go, on vacations, to our kids’ ballgames. I recall one pregnant teacher phoning in her lesson plans while she was the delivery room.

But the basic necessity we teachers lack that most other members of the workplace take for granted is the opportunity to go to the bathroom as need arrives. We must pre-schedule our visits—or not go at all. To a teacher, a semi-private bathroom, one we don’t have to share with students, is a luxury.

It never fails. Every time I make a quick trip to the student restroom, which is closest to my classroom, I’m under constant scrutiny. I’m the enemy. The students shut up then whisper, “Not now. Teacher.” Then everyone shuts up to see what I’m going to do.

Awkward.

Here’s the problem. The teacher bathroom at my school is on the opposite end of the building from my room so if I need to visit, I must manuever through hundreds of students during class change or slip out of my room during instructional time and hope, nay, pray, my students don’t torment each other or—worse yet—an administrator doesn’t enter the room without me present.

Teachers aren’t supposed to talk on the cell phones during class time. Sometimes we can’t even answer when nature calls.

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I’m one of those people who have recurring dreams—and they’re all about bathrooms. I find that bizarre, don’t you? I decided to do a little research to find out why. I didn’t consult a medium or witch doctor. I Googled.

Psychologists suggest my bathroom dreams reveal I am repressing my feelings and not admitting to how I really feel about something.

Well, great. Blogging is a wonderful idea. Letting go of my bathroom troubles is cleansing, renewing. Maybe I can just rant and flush these troubles away.

Yeah, right.

This past week I suffered a great dilemma. When I arrived at school, I had limited time to carry in my book bag and the many bags of groceries I brought for our annual Thanksgiving food basket drive. I knew I would have to make many trips and then go sign in and do hall duty before school started. Somewhere in between those duties, I needed to go to the bathroom.

My first trips to my room were easy. Arms loaded, I balanced just right, and unlocked my classroom door. I still had a few minutes to spare. With only one bag left in the car, I estimated I could do it…sign in and visit the ladies’ room before the bell rang. I rushed back to my Explorer.

Then it happened.

When I picked up my bag, a jar of peanut butter fell out. And it rolled. And rolled. Underneath the SUV next to me.

Keep in mind, I was dressed in my professional attire, not my Saturday afternoon jeans and t-shirt.

My school is undergoing extensive re-modeling; construction workers abound. I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of them, but I got down on my hands and knees on the gravel drive and peered under the automobile.

I couldn’t reach the peanut butter.

I had my options. I could leave it, waste the money, and turn in an incomplete basket. I could ask the driver to move the car, or I could go inside and hunt for a broom to whack the peanut butter closer so I get my fingers on it.

But here’s the problem. I had limited time. I didn’t want to waste the money or the time it took to hunt down the driver or a broom.

So I did what any insane, improper, undignified teacher would do. I put down the bag, dropped to my belly, and crawled combat style under the SUV to retrieve the peanut butter.

Total humiliation. (If a construction worker asks you about some nut rolling around in the teacher parking lot, please pretend as if you know nothing.  Let’s keep it our little secret.)

And you want to know what’s worse? The next day our school had a lock down during our first period class. I followed my principal’s directives. I locked my door and told my students we were completely safe. NO ONE could get in.

And then the ceiling gave away, and the roof started leaking. Drip. Drip. Drip. But we still had a huge barrel to catch the water from the many other episodes of leaks we’ve had since last year.

There was one problem. I had to go to bathroom. I could not leave the room for any reason. The class period extended for another forty minutes or so.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

But we were safe. NO ONE could get in our room because I had locked the door.

But the door opened.

And a man entered.

And he carried something in his hand. I thought it was a Glock. It was a flashlight.

One of our hard-working maintenance personnel peeked in to check on my ceiling. He arrived just in time. The ceiling immediately exploded with multiple leaks, and we only had one bucket.

Drippity, drippity, drippity, drip, drip, drip. And I still had to go to the bathroom.

But I couldn’t go to the bathroom, not even the next class period.

I was scheduled to be observed as part of our state evaluation program. If I left my room, I risked points being deducted from my score for not being on time and prepared.

Drippity, drippity, drippity, drip, drip, drip.

There are those times when a teacher has to do what a teacher has to do.

The principal announced the end of the lock down, and out the door I flew. I found my evaluator. I rescheduled my observation and rushed to the teacher’s bathroom on the other side of the building.

But it was locked. I couldn’t get in. Like my room, the women’s bathroom had suffered too much water damage and had to be closed for repairs.

ARRGGGGG!

So here I am at home on Thanksgiving break. Bet you can guess one of the reasons why I’m thankful. We have two bathrooms in our house, and when Mama says, “Mine!” my boys know I mean business.

Pushy people

What a difference a few steps can make.

I teach in the English department on the opposite end of the building from the band room. But a couple of weeks ago I found myself stepping back in time as I wrangled a set of drums for my son’s talent show.

It seemed like only yesterday that I was there with my best buds, hanging out and feeling like a part of one big dysfunctional, but generally happy, family. The atmosphere was the same. A cacophony of brass, wind, and laughter filled the room.

Show time. There was a stir of excitement as the band members packed their trailer for the night’s performance.

When I was in high school, I though my chances at joining were voided when a friend talked me out of signing up for beginner band in seventh grade. I never learned how to play an instrument. But somehow I found a home in the band as a member of the guard.

Actually, back then we referred to ourselves as the flag corps. The beautiful majorettes stayed to themselves, and the rifles stuck to their guns. But the flag girls were special. I’ll never forget the parties and those horrific fiberglass flag poles we had to carry. They were lethally heavy, nothing compared to the lighter and prettier poles the guard members carry today.

I’m not the outgoing type. I’m competitive, yes. I’m a Bell. But I never have been what you would call a girly girl. I’ve always felt more comfortable throwing a baseball, shooting a basketball, or riding a horse. When the band director and my friends suggested I try out for guard, I thought they were nuts.

Me, dancing around in costume on a football field, keeping time, waving around a flag? Yeah, right. I was the bonafide poster child for all the rhythmless, clutzy dorks.

I lacked confidence. I didn’t carry myself well, but a slouch doesn’t look so great on the field. I had to learn how to march with one foot in front of the other, how to maintain great posture with the chin held high, and how to stay totally focused even if I messed up.

I never, ever considered trying out until my band director and friends on the corps pushed me into it.

As they say, never say never.

I learned the routines. I tried out. But there were no guarantees. I had to get over my fear of failure and do what I thought I could not do. I still remember the music from my routine–“The Theme from Love Boat.”

(Many thanks to the flag captain who worked with me and help me put together my routine. I never throught I could–or would–do it.)

But I did it, and I made it. I survived camp and even won a Drill Down competition for the most precise moves. And even more unbelievably,I actually performed on the field in front of packed bleachers, twirling a flag
to the sounds of the “William Tell Overture.”

Okay. I’ll admit there were times I felt a little awkward, prancing around like the Lone Ranger in search of Tonto. But the friendships I made and the courage I developed were worth everything.

I’ll never forget the game when we planned our greatest feat yet. Members of the flag corps lined up in two rows, and the band paraded through the middle of us and we tossed our flag poles to our waiting partners on the other side, making them spin above the band members’ heads.

“Dear, Lord,” I prayed. “Please, on this night, do not let me kill anyone. And if I do hit somebody in the head, please don’t let it be one of the cute drummer boys.”

I am happy to report there were no casualties.

The point I’m trying to make her is that sometimes we need a little push to take the extra steps to move out of our comfort zones. Something grand may be waiting us just a few steps away. We may even see it, but our fear can keep us from crossing the line.

If my friends and my band director hadn’t given me a nudge, I would have never realized that I CAN do what I think is impossible, I never would have made friends with some of the most incredible people I’ve met in my life, and I may have never opened the door to my creativity.

As a teacher, I push my students. They don’t like it.

I make them do assignments they don’t like to do. I make them try new things. I make them talk in front of the class. I make them interpret poetry. I make them meet deadlines. I make them write.

Sometimes they say ugly things about me behind my back and occasionally to my face. I laugh. Some of them are very creative with their insults. I’m sure it’s just their “special” way of saying “I love you, Mrs. L.”

Truthfully, I think the majority of them know I do what I do because they know they need it.

The greatest compliment I can ever receive is for my students’ eyes to light up when they realize for the first time they possess a gift they never know they had, when they discover they can do something they once thought was impossible.

I always figured myself to be just another short, dorky kid that didn’t belong. But my band director believed I was worth “pushing.” I hope my students realize they are worth “pushing.”

I have a challenge for those of you out there with a gift, especially you writers. I believe God places people in our lives for a reason. Look around you. Is there someone in your life that you can “push” or “nudge?” Can you share a little bit of your gift, your encouragement, so that others can discover they have something special too? Don’t keep it all to yourself.

Just a thought. Push on.

NOTE:  Do you know someone who needs a little push, a little encouragement? Please encourage your friend to read my blog. I always hope for a new subscriber.