24 December 2008

Ten Rules for Being Human

by Cherie Carter-Scott

1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it's yours to keep for the entire period.
2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called, "life."
3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error, and experimentation. The "failed" experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately "work."
4. Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.
5. Learning lessons does not end. There's no part of life that doesn't contain its lessons. If you're alive, that means there are still lessons to be learned.
6. "There" is no better a place than "here." When your "there" has become a "here", you will simply obtain another "there" that will again look better than "here."
7. Other people are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.
8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
9. Your answers lie within you. The answers to life's questions lie within you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.
10. You will forget all this.

17 December 2008

And How Does This Advance the Ball for You, Exactly?

This is an actual, verbatim conversation initiated by a student (shades of Minnesota Matron). And all I can think is, "....you're serious? Really??"

From: . [LXXXXXXX.D@xxxxxxxx.edu]
Sent: Sun 12/14/2008 2:44 PM
To: [thefirecat@xxxxxxx.edu]
Subject: please not a C

Hi its Dxxxxx
please not a c. i came to every class and thats my lowest grade this semester and that really brings down my gpa. And the intership i need requires a 3.0 gpa and im sorry for missing the one assingment. how bout i watch a old movie and send you a report on it or go see a play or somthin.


thanks for your time

From: [thefirecat@xxxxxx.edu]
Sent: Mon 12/15/2008 10:57 AM
To: [LXXXXXX.D@xxxxxx.edu]
Subject: RE: please not a C

Frankly it's a little late now to be concerned about your grade. I mentioned after the midterm that people had an opportunity to raise their grades by writing an additional paper; some students took advantage of that generous offer. You chose not to. The one assignment you missed didn't actually factor that much into your grade, especially since you were in class pretty consistently. You got a D on your midterm, a B on your paper on Othello, and a C on the final. That averages out to a C. Sorry.



From: . [LXXXXXXX.D@xxxxxxxx.edu]
Sent: Sun 12/14/2008 2:44 PM
To: [thefirecat@xxxxxxx.edu]
Subject: RE: please not a C


i was probly sleep when it was offerd... but ok :(:::::::


On second thought, I'm tempted to change his grade after all. I'm thinking a D for dumbass might be appropriate. Good thing that takes paperwork I don't have here. I'll have to settle for public, if anonymous, humiliation.

14 December 2008

37 and a Wake-Up

I just watched (ok, several times) the CNN video of some lunatic throwing his shoes at George W. Bush. I gotta hand it to the man, he may not be quick with a phrase but he's got some pretty good reflexes. Check out that duck and cover action.

"Let me talk about the guy throwing his shoe. It's one way to gain attention. It's like going to a political rally and having people yell at you. It's like driving down the street and having people not gesturing with all five fingers...."

And you know what? If he'd been this much fun the rest of his time in office, I might not have hated him quite so much.

09 December 2008

What to Do When You Run Out of Sick Days

Don't worry though. It's not contagious.

No, seriously? Best. Protest. Ever.

01 December 2008

A Brush with Genius

Just read this message from Frank Reichlin, who was a year behind me at the MFA program at Eastern Washington University. I want to be Frank when I grow up, for various reasons, not the least of all being that he writes messages like this:

"that would be a lamb sausagette, I believe. Also known as a wooly banger, one of the cutest of all delectable meat products. The baby rabbit fuzzy-wurst being, of course, the pinnacle of sausage-meets-cute.
BTW. answer my goddamn email. now.
kisses, fpp"

30 November 2008

Conspiracy? You Decide

Conspicuously missing from this list of reasons why I might be so tired is "because it is the week before finals, your applications to PhD programs are due in two weeks and you've been pounding out the final version of your twenty-page critical writing sample, and you're training for another marathon. Oh, and you have PMS, so you keep waking up in a puddle of sweat."

Why is that?

28 November 2008

Admitting You Have a Problem Is Only the First Step

Whilst Christmas shopping from the comfort of my jammies, I found a post at Amazon.com titled I'm a Wagner Addict: Now What?

Sadly, from the sounds of it, Wagner is merely her gateway drug.

It's the Hap-Happiest Season...

Conversation regarding the three minutes of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade for which we all gathered, following which we turned on Alice's Restaurant and sang along to that, instead:

Me: I can't believe they have to have a girl carrying a sign. Anybody who doesn't know this is Andy Williams doesn't deserve to live.

My forty-year-old sister: Well, dear, there are young people in the world.

Me: And until just now, I'd thought I was one of them.

14 November 2008

Behold the Irony.

Got the following email from my sister this evening. This is the sister, it must be said, who has her PhD in some subfield of physical anthropology that I can't even pronounce, let alone spell, and the father who has two master's degrees, and a juris doctor.

Yeah, that sounds like Dad. He's a lot cleverer than you'd think for someone who can't spell colandar. Of course, I can't spell colandar, but I'm not nearly as clever as Dad.

Um, yes. That would be colander of which you write? Or would that be making my point altogether too obvious?

Yes, Semicolons.

Um, thanks Jess?

Rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Share 7 random and/or weird facts about you.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end, and include links to their blogs.

1. I darn near caused a riot in last night's COM 101 class at College A, from an impromptu combination of Aristotle's theory of rational souls, Scott McCloud's comics, an American flag, and altogether too much Coke Zero. It was one of my finer lectures of the semester. I'm so proud.

2. My favourite bedtime ritual involves a long, hot bath and a New York Times crossword puzzle.

3. This crazy marathon runner? Once flunked gym class in high school.

4. I have more grey hair at 35 than many people have hair, period.

5. During grad school, I suffered from a recurring nightmare about semicolons.

6. This morning my dad left me a note on the grocery store receipt that said, "The butler was in the pantry." I laughed for about half an hour. On his way out he'd asked me if I needed anything, and my response had been, "A clue." Be careful what you ask for around here.

7. I have a deep and abiding fear that if I ever move to Ithaca, no one will ever be able to make me move anywhere else ever again.

Last time, I failed on the tagging other people part, so this time I tag fiat, Zanne, the Matron, and....ummm.....uh......I'll get back to you on that.

07 November 2008

Even the Toaster Is Frightened

Ever have one of those days where you're driving home from work, pondering the nature of electricity, and light waves, and those telekinetic people who allege to bend spoons, and idly wondering whether brainwaves can actually in fact physically affect objects....and as you're pondering all these things in your little noggin, the nearest transformer blows up in a searing shower of blue sparks, shorting out the traffic light as you're driving through it?

I'm thinking maybe I should stay under the bed this weekend.

06 November 2008

The Rest of the Equation

So let's get this straight. While we're all standing around, whooping it up and dancing in the streets, storming the White House fence and partying, honking our horns back and forth across 125th Street, being all self-congratulatory?

While we're all, Look at us, we can elect a black man, prejudice is a thing of the past?

The most liberal state in the Union is out there quietly voting in favour of Proposition 8.

That's right, folks, we can let a man of a different colour into the White House, but God forbid we give equal rights to all those gay people.

The fuck is this? A democracy, or Animal Farm?

05 November 2008

Equation: Basic Fractions

It only took us as a nation 140 years past the legislation that decreed it, but last night one man found, once and for all, those missing 2/5. Welcome home, America.




Yes
 We 
  Can.

For the Next Time I Think I Had a Crappy Run

from the Associated Press

PRESCOTT, ARIZ. — Authorities in Arizona say a jogger attacked by a rabid fox ran a mile with the animal's jaws clamped on her arm and then drove herself to a hospital.

The Yavapai County sheriff's office says the woman told deputies she was on a trail near Prescott on Monday when the fox attacked and bit her foot.

She said she grabbed the fox by the neck when it went for her leg but it bit her arm.

The woman wanted the animal tested for rabies so she ran a mile to her car with the fox still biting her arm, then pried it off and tossed it in her trunk and drove to the Prescott hospital.

The sheriff's office says the fox later bit an animal control officer. He and the woman are both receiving rabies vaccinations.

30 October 2008

Injured Marines Semper Fi Fund

My friend Jimmy is an animal in red running shoes. This past week, he (along with four other Marines) completed a 177.5 mile run, starting in Philadelphia and ending with the completion of the 33rd Annual Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC.

Then he went out for beer and nachos.

This was not a relay run. This was five Marines (plus a hell of a driver and a trailer full of gear) running forty miles per day. For five days in a row. As alluded to in this post's title, they did this as a fundraiser for the Injured Marines Semper Fi Fund, a non-profit dedicated to raising money to benefitt injured Marines and Sailors.

The Team had a fundraising goal of $25,000 and they're a bit short. If you'd like to donate, or even just send them a message telling them they're crazy running fools, please visit the Tun Tavern Runners' web site. Tell 'em FireCat the Gatorade Lady sent you.



(This photo was taken around 2pm on Friday, some 100 miles into their journey; thus, you'd think Jimmy would have the decency to at least look winded.)

Sometimes It's the Simple Things that Trip Us Up. Like, Say, the Sun.

My poor dad. He has tried faithfully every week this semester to record CSI for me, since I teach on Thursday nights and am usually not home until well after ten. (For those of you wondering, yes he does record The Closer and Saving Grace when I teach on Monday nights.)

Almost every week, this results in Epic Failure.

What's interesting is that the Epic Failure is of a different variety nearly every week. My father is both wise in his advancing years, and an educated man. He learns from his mistakes. Setting up to tape the season premiere last month, he forgot to hit "enter" after entering all the information. By the time I got home, Warrick had already bled to death all over Grissom, and Sara was in the latter's office consoling him. (Fortunately this was not a plot twist that had gone unexpected, since Gary Dourdan was leaving the show).

The following week he got everything right, I think; either that or I cancelled class, because I distinctly remember the episode. We were starting to settle into a routine. Date, time begin, time end, ENTER, insert DVD that is actually of recordable quality, turn TV off but leave box set to CBS (not Spike, which shows some Smackdown shit Thursday nights that I couldn't be less interested in) rinse out wine glass, retire to bed. Awake in morning to grateful daughter brimming with anecdotes from last night's episode.

Then George Bush went and fucked with Daylight Savings Time.

That's right, folks, our DVD/VCR automatically set itself back an hour on Saturday night, and no one noticed until I came home and squinted at the LED display to make sure it was recording properly. It wasn't. But it will be in, oh, about eight minutes.

20 October 2008

All Politics Aside

This morning's New York Times contained an article about the health disclosures--or lack thereof--of the current batch of Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees. Though I don't usually like to give myself indigestion that early in the morning, I perused it over my morning tea and waffles, and came across a paragraph that stopped me briefly.

The records mentioned that in 1968, about eight months after his capture and after some particularly brutal beatings from his North Vietnamese captors, Mr. McCain attempted suicide, trying to hang himself with his shirt.

Now while I'm not a particular fan of Senator McCain's politics, his policies, or his habit of wandering around the stage during debates while his opponent is speaking (what was he doing back there? Looking for his dentures?) and I am not of the belief that having been a prisoner of war necessarily qualifies--or disqualifies--someone from being a head of state, I just wanted to go on the record here.

I honestly don't think there is a person between here and North Vietnam that can blame the Senator for that. Most of us, myself included, wouldn't have lasted eight minutes, let alone eight months.

14 October 2008

12 October 2008

Strange Girl, Indeed.

How frighteningly accurate is this?

I am Marianne Dashwood!


Take the Quiz here!

08 October 2008

Also an Average Joe

I can't say this any better than my friend Mary, so I'm not even going to try. Please, please, please go read the most recent post on her blog if it's the last thing you do before you go to bed tonight. Please. It's so worth it.

You can even ignore Sarah Palin's misuse of the objective case. Just this once.

Do the Math

McCain's proposed health care credit (per year): $5000.
My current health care bill (per year): $5916.

And I have one of the more affordable ones.

FAIL.

07 October 2008

Dear Senator McCain:

I am not your "friend." Kindly refrain from addressing me as such, or else I shall have to assume that, much like your party's predecessor, you are simply ignoring my (daily increasing) segment of the population. Might not be a bad tactic, come to think of it; we are royally pissed off after eight years of being ignored, not to mention it seems to have worked well for George W.

But anyway. If I were given the opportunity to ask a question, it would be this: why do you keep wandering around like a geriatric golden retriever whilst Senator Obama is speaking? Myndi just emailed me from Chicago wondering the same thing, and I suggested to her that it's your prostate. Perhaps you're pacing like that to distract yourself from thinking about how badly you have to pee. Either that or you've lost your dentures.

01 October 2008

Strummin' on the Old....Wait, What??

Ok, I'm warning you, there is a high weirdness factor to this quasi-injury report. And I'm doing all the right things for it, and I'm not concerned, and it doesn't even really hurt. I just wanted to report the strangeness of the human body. Or, more specifically, the FireCat body.

So I've got this very tight tendon/ligament/thingie in my left foot this past week. No big deal, I'm just stretching it and massaging it and icing it. It's not that big scary one that gives me and Running Friend Kat both the woogies, but it's near there.

Just now, on my way downstairs to get some iced coffee so I can work on my research paper without bonking my head on the keyboard, I stop to massage it on the edge of a stair, as I often do.

Dude.

I can hear this thing. Actually, audibly, hear it as it rubs back and forth across the step: plonk, plonk, plonk. Just like a little, tiny foot-banjo.

Ew.

16 September 2008

Movidos Pela Paixão

I hate when this happens. Especially given Fiat's slogan.

"Moved by passion," indeed.

12 September 2008

Again With the Not Knowing What "Maybe" Means

Late last night, after teaching my evening class, I saw a headline on CNN.com that I attributed to the hour and my lack of presecription eyewear. This morning my sister emailed me same, with just one comment: "Um...."

I figured it was a passing moment of stupidity, because the headline was quickly updated. (Apparently "yIKEs! It's coming!" wasn't funny, though, because it was replaced almost immediately.) But just moments ago, NPR's very reputable (not to mention adorably charming and funny) Andrew Meyer just read the exact same headline off the wire.

WARNING: IKE MAY BRING "CERTAIN DEATH."

Now, please note that I in no way fault Mr. Meyer for this atrocity. The instant he shut off his microphone, he probably looked across the newsroom and mouthed "....what?" through the plexiglass shield at the on-air host.

But seriously, people. It might bring certain death? As opposed to....what, uncertain death? Death that you're not really convinced has occurred?

I'll let Andrew off the hook, because his mom makes such excellent brownies, but CNN, I'm putting you on notice.

06 September 2008

Why I Practice Yoga

What happens next, apparently, is that Bookstore A notices an edition update in my Thursday night textbook. (You know, the class where until now nothing has exploded except the critical mass, since the dean apparently has--and excercises--the power to override class limits.) And fails to notify me, for whatever reason. I suspect it's because they think I didn't hand in my textbook request, a feat which mystifies me since they knew which textbook to update.

Anyway, usually a move from a tenth edition to an eleventh edition means something like "two of the photographs are different" or "we fixed the layout problem so that now page 345 comes between pages 344 and 346 instead of opposite page 19." So I wasn't too worried, expecting that I might have to update a reading or two, and definitely look up the alternate page numbers.

Yeah, fully three-quarters of my assigned readings aren't in there. Looks like I'll be rewriting two syllabi this weekend. Fortunately, with the effects of Tropical Storm Hanna blowing through today, it was a very good day to spend curled up on my bed reading, nestled up against a paranoid, one-eyed cat who thought this was a wonderful idea. Also fortunately, I like most of the new readings better, all things being equal.

Just not enough to have to do any more damn work on it.

05 September 2008

Sometimes All It Takes Is One Sentence

"After watching her speech last night, I've decided that Sarah Palin is Ann Coulter in a woman's body."

I just read this comment on a post over at Dooce (yeah, like she needs another link for more traffic, but what the hell, I like the woman) and immediately knew I had to link to this man's blog. I dunno, call me fickle but with a sense of humour like that, I had to take a chance on the guy.

Hi, Husband!

I Guess that Would Depend on Your Definition of the Word "Maybe"

I have admitted before that I am a news junkie. Sometimes in the course of perusing CNN, I click on news that is not local to me, if it has a headline that grabs me. I'm not sure why I clicked on this article, and the news it contains is a little demented. As is this quote, although probably not in the way the editor intended it:

“I know my heart was racing. I know my mom’s heart was racing,” said Linda Lerma, who received one of the calls. “They said it was fatal, which is telling me maybe somebody’s dead.”

....well, yeah. It just might mean that, Linda.

03 September 2008

Baby Got Back (to Back)

Oh yeah. And I managed to run two miles today, which is more than I've logged at any one time since I was mangled in the midst of a five-mile training run six months ago. Spent the next hour with my left leg encased in ice, but what the hell.

Giant Mongolian Clusterfrak: College A Strikes Again

NOTE: This is a continuation of the saga begun in this post

College A is going to be the death of me. Just sayin.

Two weekends ago I rewrote a syllabus for a class that turned out to be one of those late-start classes that's condensed into 14 weeks instead of the whole semester. Which I hadn't realized, so the syllabus was all wrong. Remember that? Yeah. So, last week, they cancelled it. Sure. Fine. Whatever. Five classes is way too many when you factor in the commute between colleges (at least an hour, one way, to each). I moved on.

This past weekend I had to rewrite a syllabus that I'd sent in a month ago because they finally got around to reading it and noticed that it didn't jibe with their critical updates. Part was my fault, because I left out that teensy little line on the schedule that says when the third paper was due, so they thought I only assigned three papers, when there are in fact four. Oooops. The other part was their fault, because they couldn't find something that was there. That class was scheduled to have started this past Tuesday evening.

Tuesday morning, as I was drinking my tea and getting ready for classes at both colleges, they called to cancel that class. And called back ten minutes later to offer me three other classes, two of which I couldn't take because of conflicts with College B, whose classes have already started. (And yes, since you asked, it was in fact the ENG210 that I accepted at the last minute that was the conflict. Behold the irony.) The third class was going to be at the same time as the class they'd just cancelled. And it was a class I've already taught a zillion times, and am teaching at another time this semester, and all was cool. I poured most of my now-cold tea out, leapt into some clothes, and fled to College B with my hair still in wild disarray, though I did put on lipstick while waiting at a railroad crossing.

There's more. Of course there's more.

Today I found out that I have to write an entirely new syllabus, because......this is a contract class with an outside company, offsite, and they've always used a different textbook. And they'd like to keep using it please. Fortunately, I already have a copy of this other textbook, because I now have to spend this, my third weekend in a row, writing a syllabus. For a class that isn't supposed to exist.

The class has seven students in it, which is wonderful. Because two drafts each of four papers is much less horrifying from seven students than it is from twenty-eight, which is the normal maximum enrollment.

Until I looked online and noticed that the registrar's office has opened enrollment for this class to the student population. And assigned critical mass as 28 instead of 10. Um, scuse me. And there are PEOPLE REGISTERING. Which means if they don't fix it soon, preferably closer to immediately and retroactively, I am going to have potentially 35 people who think they are in my class. I'm not really okay with this on oh, so many many levels.

And for this? For this I get paid the equivalent of four months' of health insurance payments. Or about two months' rent, were I to manage to escape the sucking vortex that seems to be my life at the moment.

I'd say to stick around for the conclusion, but I'm kind of afraid to find out, myself. So if you know what happens next, drop me a line. I'll be hiding under my desk.

30 August 2008

This is for Minnesota Matron



This was emailed to me recently. And that's all I'm gonna say here.

28 August 2008

Pop Quiz #2

Today's quiz will be in geography.

From: marketresearch@ets.org

Subject: ETS Invites You To Participate In A Focus Group Session in NEW DEHLI
Date: August 28, 2008 6:39:38 PM EDT
To: THEFIRECAT@xxxxxx.net
Reply-To: marketresearch@ets.org

Educational Testing Service is conducting a series of informal discussion groups with students around the world about their experience taking standardized tests for graduate admissions purposes.

A two-hour discussion group will be held in the NEW DEHLI area on September 23, 2008. Individuals selected to participate in the group will be paid at the conclusion of the session. Light refreshments will also be provided.

If you would like to participate, you must complete a brief, 10 minute survey. Since space for the discussion group is limited, we encourage you to complete the survey within 24 hours of receipt of this email. The survey can can be accessed by clicking on the following link:

[link removed]

If you cannot access the survey by clicking on the link, please copy the entire link and paste it directly into the address bar of your web browser.


Are they serious?? I can't even fly to the informal discussion group in 24 hours. The only way New Dehli is even remotely close to New Jersey is on an alphabetical list. And even then, New Hampshire, New Hanover, and arguably Newt Gingrich are between them, depending on how you file.

And these are the people who graded the test that will decide where I get my PhD. Shudder.

27 August 2008

Living the Questions

A former student was given an assignment by her English 101 professor to ask a teacher the following questions:

1) How do you feel about writing?
2) Why is writing important to you?

Following is my response:

Cess-

Ok, I'm back. Here goes. It gets a little weird, so stay with me. The simple truth is that most people think I am a lunatic when I tell them how I feel about writing. I recognize that normal people aren't wired this way, but I feel about writing the way most people feel about, say, air. Or skydiving. Or the mountains, or hot fudge sundaes, or God. No, not God exactly, but religion maybe. I knew when I was five years old and used to play with my sister's little blue plastic manual typewriter that I was going to be a writer. It's not that it was the only thing I could do (though there were pitiful times in eighth grade gym class when it felt like that) but I always knew that it was kinda my secret superpower. The world could be the most messed up place, my parents could be fighting, the boy I liked could tell me to drop dead, I could have no friends, my cat could barf all over my homework, and when I opened a notebook and wrote about it, everything got ok again. For Christmas in eighth grade, my parents got me a copy of "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg, and it changed my life. Suddenly, I was allowed to write, and allowed to write about anything. My parents, and the book, had given me permission. Writing was comfort at the end of a hard day, a way to keep me sane in school and in my own head as a teenager, and it was freedom. I could be anyone. I could be me (whoever that was). I could try on all sorts of things, and not get in trouble. I could work out all the stupid things that people said and did, and fix them. I could tell a story the way I wanted it to end. I could get the guy, run away from home, climb mountains, hop freight trains, go to college, solve mysteries--all while sprawled across my bed with a black-and-white marbled notebook. (The green ink thing also started in eighth grade, as a way to piss off my English teacher, who already disliked me because I was smarter than she was....but that's another story.)

Writing for me now is a ritual of peace and centering; a way to touch base with myself, my emotions, whatever divinity exists, the world. It's a way to keep track of where I'm going, not to mention where I've been. It's a sort of road map. Still, if the world or my marriage or my health threatens to fall apart, I can open a black-and-white notebook and uncap my green fountain pen, and everything will seem all right. If I didn't have that--and there have been times I have been unable to write, either physically or emotionally literally unable to write, for whatever reason--I would be a most unhappy sight. It's not pretty. If I don't write, I get cranky. My husband once threatened to lock me in my writing room until I had written enough pages that I got out of my funk! (the threat itself made me laugh so hard it did the trick, but I went and wrote for an hour anyway). If I don't write, I can't figure anything out. Why I think something, why I feel a certain way, or sometimes even what I am feeling or thinking in the first place. I am not the world's best debater with the spoken word--my thoughts get tangled up unless I have a pen in my hand. I express myself so much more clearly in writing than I do out loud, in part because I used to be self-conscious about the sound of my voice, in part because you apparently use entirely different parts of your brain to write than you do to speak. Who knew? Sometimes I have to go back to one of my old journals to prove a point in an argument. If I've written about it, I'm usually right (and sometimes I'm word-for-word right, which pissed my husband off no end). If I didn't write about it, I may forget entirely. I probably will, in fact. My brain can be a notorious sieve. Without writing, nothing makes sense. Certainly not this weird life we're in.

This is probably way more than you bargained for, and not even close to what your professor is expecting. But he should have known better--he's a writing teacher, after all.

Be well.

x
FireCat

23 August 2008

Operation Alphabet Soup, Fall 2008 Edition

This time last week, I was prepped to teach five classes at two different colleges, and ramping up for my upcoming GRE. I took the GRE once, to get into my MFA program. Fifteen years ago. Since GRE scores are good for a maximum of five years--though some schools have shorter windows, as if our intellect, like sour cream, gets rancid after sitting around unused for extended periods of time--I was due for another set.

Let's just point out that it's been twenty years since I've taken a math class, and the last time I took the GRE, I actually had to use a pencil. Needless to say, "ramping up" roughly translates into "experiencing recurring bouts of unmitigated panic".

First I got a mysterious message from College A, from the new department secretary, saying that the new Dean had given her my resume and wanted to know if I was interested in an adjunct position at College A. This mysterious message was quite troubling mostly because last time I checked, I have an adjunct position at College A. In fact, a syllabus from no fewer than three classes was likely in the new secretary's inbox as she dialed. One of them turned out to be utterly useless because COM101-M4 has a late start date, but that's another post altogether, and not worth getting into.

Two days later, one of the part-time assistants from College A also called, wanting to know when I was going to email a copy of my current syllabus to the department. After pointing out that the answer was, indeed, "two weeks ago" I asked to be transfered to the new full-time department secretary. The one who had tried to give me my own job, as if I should be grateful for it.

Eventually, we got things straightened out at College A, blaming most of the kerfluffle on the new Dean.

Then College B called.

College B is notoriously wonderful. It's a small, Catholic college; it engages in service learning on a regular basis in which even the College President participates alongside freshmen and volleyball coaches, bends over backwards to accommodate my particular insanities, and just generally has its shit together on a pretty consistent basis. In short, I often want to kiss College B on the mouth. Sadly, College B was calling to cancel ENG104, my favourite class of all time, for the second consecutive semester due to underenrollment. The department chair and I spoke at length about our desire to see this course fly, and plans are underway to revamp some other things in the department requirements (including a core course that is much less effective than planned) to resurrect this class. Presumably so I can teach it. It is, after all, the class they originally hired me to teach in the first place.

That was Tuesday night at supper. Thursday morning, I was sitting on the front porch drinking an enormous mug of tea when the phone rang again. Again, it was College B. I tensed, thinking they were going to take ENG101 away from me, even though there are 20 students enrolled and no full-time professor in his right mind wants to teach ENG101. That's why there are adjuncts in the first place. Well, that and the lack of office space on campus.

But no. The department chair was calling to see if I could teach ENG210, something I have not only never taught, but haven't particularly studied since I left my undergraduate institution lo these fifteen years ago (see paragraph 1). I allowed has how I really couldn't answer this right away, because I was leaving to take the GRE in thirty minutes, and I can't freak out about two things at the same time, so I was tabling this discussion until later that evening when I could freak out about it properly. In the meantime, could she send me the syllabus and other useful information (like when does this class even meet?) so I could make a more informed, or at least slightly less hare-brained, decision.

By the way, did I mention that ENG210 apparently has no syllabus, just a basic outline of how to teach the entire history of theatre (which is only about as long as the entire history of man walking upright) in fifteen weeks? And that the textbook that was ordered by the professor to take this class in between its original creator and me does not actually match the textbook followed by the syllabus? And that class starts in 72 hours? Yeah. Not kidding.

Still, being a sucker (we are, after all, a service-learning based institution) and intrigued by the glitter and  glamour of getting to teach a 200-level class, and also possibly still riding high on the fact that I had totally rocked the GRE, computer algorithm or no, I caved. Said I would teach it. Even though it now doubles the number of days per week I have to drive to College B, and trebles the number of times I have to commute directly from teaching at College B to College A, which involves driving on an toll road that ends in the word "Turnpike" through a notorious Eastern city in midafternoon.

Now where did I leave those amphetamines?

08 August 2008

Pop Quiz

Today's pop quiz will be in architecture. There will be  one problem. You will have an unlimited amount of time to solve this problem.

1. What's wrong with this picture? (Hint: it's not the location of the back door.)



Yes, I seriously saw this whilst perusing Craigslist.

07 August 2008

FireCat Takes One in the Ass.

(No, not up the ass, in the.....oh, never mind, just click the link.)

Behold, denizens of Derfwad Manor. The mighty Mrs. G. has spoken.

And the puny, approval-craving FireCat has responded.

Yes, the short news is that I've been cleared to run again, in slow, teeny little prescribed increments. For the past two weeks it's been fifteen minutes every three days, or about as often as I spend on personal hygiene. Beginning Monday, though, it's bumped up to a whopping fifteen minutes every two days.

Can't ya just hardly stand it?

The good news: even this little bit keeps me from going entirely mazurkoid over research for a critical paper I need to have done by December. There's only so much Thoreau a girl can read before she has to go pound some serious pavement. Or, in my case, packed dirt and gravel, as roads are off-limits except during races.

The bad news: fifteen minutes is about all the aerobic activity I can handle now, just  twelve short months after a splendid 110+ mile August log.

07 July 2008

Emersonian Silliness

FireCat is amused.

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Sister Broadsword of Courteous Debate.


Get yours.

17 June 2008

The Lip Bone's Connected to the Trombone

If I didn't know my friend Jen was taking basic anatomy this summer to make up some missing credits for midwifery school, the email I just got from her would have been very disturbing, in any context. As it is, I'm just flailing wildly for a sequitur.

From: jennifer@xxxxx.com
Subject: RE: see what you missed
Date: June 17, 2008 11:43:51 AM EDT
To: thefirecat@xxxxxxx.com

AAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!

WHERE IS THE ETHMOID BONE?!?!?!?!?!

14 June 2008

Captain Jack Russell and His Crew

Drink up, me hearties, yo ho.

Ever since the premature heat wave this time last week, I have been suffering from that special brand of restless insomnia that can only strike PMSing women whose homes have no air-conditioning. The past two nights, dawn has broken before I was able to sleep, and even then I was up again every two hours to untwist the sheets, find a dry spot in the puddles of sweat, growl something surly to the cat at the foot of the bed demanding breakfast (which was already downstairs if she'd just get off her furry ass and go look), and try to return to unconsciousness. It hasn't been great for morale here in Three Feathers. Fortunately I'm the only one here these days, so I don't feel guilty when I finally slouch downstairs at the crack of noon.

This morning was particularly rough. The humidity is starting to build again, and after finally relaxing at 5:30, I was awake again just after 6:00 and 7:00 to reassess the ORSP situation, not to mention wander down the hall to check on the peeing situation.

Then, at about 8:30, my neighbour walked his dog. The aptly named Jack is (of all things) a Jack Russell mix who suffers from the twin behavioural issues of being part Jack Russell and spending his life with Paul as his full-time companion. They're a good match for each other. They're both wholesomely cute, though in a way that would never encourage me personally to take them home with me; they're well-meaning, enthusiastic, and friendly, sometimes to the point of exhaustion; and both a little bit clueless about social norms. Fortunately neither of them has ever tried to sniff my crotch. In short, I like them both all right, but in short doses and not first thing in the morning. I'm antisocial that way. I think of it as my contribution to world peace.

One of Paul's biggest difficulties with the world is that he grew up across the road on a horse farm of about 40 acres. This has left him with a certain perception of the world and his place in it. Not that he feels a righteous ownership, or that the world owes him anything--he's far too disarming for that. No, the difficulty is that Paul just honestly sometimes flat-out forgets that other people occupy space too, having had so much of it to himself growing up. It's an honest mistake, one we are taking great pains to subtly correct now that Paul and his family occupy land on three sides of us on this side of the road. (The fourth side is railroad tracks.)

Enter Jack. Like all dogs, Jack likes to be walked first thing in the morning. Like all owners of large tracts of land, Paul eschews the conventions of leashdom whenever possible. Like all grouchy neighbours, I am of mixed opinion about this. My problem is not that Jack frequently gets a bug in his puppy little terrier brain and shoots like a rocket in search of a groundhog or a bee or a tennis ball or whatever else might catch his canine fancy at any given moment. Jack is a dog. Dogs are wired that way. Lord knows I've fielded enough phone calls from the next county over because Juno wanted a bobcat for lunch. My problem is that in the summer, the family's alarm clock sounds like this: "Jack! Jack!! Jack, where's your ball? Jack, come! Jack!!!! Who's the good boy, Jack? Jack?? Jack!" This occurs not only because of the aforementioned off-leash tendencies, but because it hasn't yet occurred to Jack's owner that he does not own forty acres of land with no neighbours, and that--get this--sound does not bend to follow property lines.

This has been particularly hard on my father because his name is John. His family nickname? Is, of course, Jack. Early on, he tried to break Paul of this habit by throwing open the nearest window and yelling, "What?" in his sourest Brooklyn accent. Sadly, rather than taking the hint, Paul was amused by this.

One good thing that's happened in the two years we've all been owned by Jack is that this phenomenon has started occurring between 8:00 and 9:00 AM, instead of the less-than-godly 6:30 at which it often used to take place. I don't know whether this is a concession to Paul's schedule, the sleeping habits of his neighbours, or simply the crate-training of a dog with an infinitesimal bladder. As someone who often needs to pee at the crack of dawn myself, I can sympathize with poor Jack. It's his owner who drives me to early morning uncharitableness, especially when I've only just gotten into some semblance of sleep. I do not need to hear a running monologue about what is happening outside my window, in (I may point out) the strip of driveway that he's actually technically trespassing on. Frankly, when I am asleep, I don't care where Jack's ball is, though I do have an idea of where I'd like to put it.

But this morning? Jack did not have a tennis ball. Oh, no no no. No, this morning Jack had a squeaky toy.

Later this afternoon I may post a request for bail money.

07 June 2008

Just in Case You Thought I Was Crazy

Consider my friend Toby, who at this very moment is running the San Diego 100 Mile Endurance Run.

That was not a typo. My zero key is not sticking. Nor it this a relay run, with Toby running a leg composed of mere tens of miles. Nope. This beautiful, friendly, funny, encouraging young man is running a hundred miles today. I will repeat that. One. Hundred. Miles. At one time. In under 24 hours. By himself.


Now that? Is a beer well earned tomorrow morning when he finishes. (Thanks to Arch Fuston of Active for the photo)

06 June 2008

I Have to Get This off My (Puny) Chest

After watching John McCain's speech the other night, and hearing yet another blatant rip-off of an Obama slogan (it was bad enough that Hillary turned "Yes We Can" into "Yes We Will" after accusing him of lifting speeches from another politician) I feel I must speak. It is my duty both as an American citizen and as a professor of the English language.

I love Senator Obama. I truly do. I think he's just the kick in the ass this political system, and this country, needs. I think that right now, Ghandi, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King are doing some serious cosmic fist-bumping. (Though, I confess, the thought of Abraham Lincoln doing the "cabbage-patch" is a little frightening.) However, every time I see or hear his slogan I have to physically stop myself from grinding my teeth and correcting his campaign officers aloud. Or at least his press officers. Another generation of voters--used, misled, brainwashed.

There. I've said it. His slogan makes me crazy. Because it is wrong. 

On the other hand, I'm thinking "Change In Which We Can Believe" probably wouldn't sell as many votes.

26 May 2008

My Dream of You

(Following is an excerpt from an interview the Irish Independent did with the late Nuala O'Faolain, who died this month of cancer. Read the whole interview here. The title of this post is that of O'Faolain's second book. With thanks to Minnesota Matron.)

"The two things that keep me from the worst of self-pity are that everyone's done it so that ordinary people are as brave as I could ever be or as less brave as I could ever be.

The second thing that really matters to me is that in my time, which is mostly the 20th century, people have died horribly, billions of people have died horribly, in Auschwitz, in Darfur, or dying of starvation or dying multiply raped in the Congo or dying horribly like that.

I think look how comfortably I am dying, I have friends and family, I am in this wonderful country, I have money, there is nothing much wrong with me except dying.

When I think of how privileged I am. I had two brothers who died of drink and they died miserably and under- privileged and here I am as usual the lucky one in the family."

Think on that, on your sunny, breezy, glorious Memorial Day.

22 May 2008

Political Correctness Does Not Grow on Trees

Nor, in fact, does it run in families. Two nights ago, my dad wondered aloud if poor Ted Kennedy's brain tumour was what had caused him in recent months to endorse Barack Obama. Then, being a sensical man, he ducked. Because he knew something was going to come flying at him from my end of the table.

Yesterday, on my way to the local hippie-crunch food store for more organic kale and carrots to juice (seriously), I saw a bumper sticker: I MISS RONALD REAGAN.

Is it wrong that my first instinct was to roll down the window and yell, "Hinckley didn't!" ?

19 May 2008

Jonas Einstein, 1997-2008

You fought a good fight, Mr. Man, and in the end I'm sorry I wasn't home to tell you it was okay to go. You were a friend and a companion to me, and to my beloved husband, in some very dark times. Like the Native American legends of Coyote, you were also a jester, often a klutz, and occasionally too dumb to be believed (like all those times you fell into the bathwater with me because you slipped on my washcloth). You drove me crazy by shitting in the bathtub whenever my parents or my in-laws came over, your unerring ability to search and destroy freshly clean laundry (pictured here refusing to give Asia her sweatshirt back), and let's not even mention that time you looked squarely at us to make sure we were watching, and then peed into my new leather briefcase, all over my journal.

In the last month, you'd made it pretty clear that the end of our time together was approaching. You did this in various ways, not limited to chronic constipation, refusal of all food except liverwurst and cooked bacon, severe dehydration requiring daily fluid replacement, utter incontinence, inability to jump onto furniture or ultimately even climb stairs, and a seizure brought on by low blood sugar. Still, each time I brought you to the vet for what I thought was a date with euthanasia, you perked up and pulled another life out of your furry bag of tricks--Coyote strikes again. This morning, you reached in and found that bag finally empty.

You will be sorely missed, little dude. Thanks for taking care of us all these years. I can only hope we returned the favour when it was most needed.

16 May 2008

Random Thought #482 (from the Insomnia Files)

One of the most annoying things about living in the country (one of the few, in fact) is that animals having sex in the middle of the night? Really, really loud. And not even vaguely erotic.

09 May 2008

She-Ra, Princess of Stupid (and her cat, Mega-Paw)

This time last week Jonas, the oldest of my three cats, was receiving his second enema (the details of which are just about as horrifying as you're imagining right now, for both the recipient and the administrator) and about to begin a course of subcutaneous fluids to attempt to forestall permanent kidney failure.

Without going into too many of the gory details, suffice it to say that it wasn't a good week for either of us. Jo spent two days too weak to do anything but sleep--unable to walk, eat, drink, or protest when forced to suffer the various indignities of kitty rehydration, which sadly included peeing on himself where he lay. Hey, I said I wouldn't go into too many of the details. I didn't say I wouldn't mention any of them.  My dad and I discussed possible locations of interment relative to our groundwater source, and I went so far as to get the shovel out of the barn.

Then, mysteriously, Saturday evening at 6:00 he staggered upright and lurched across the kitchen--straight through his unused food dish, scattering kibble everywhere--to a patch of sunlight near where my dad was cooking. Sunday morning he started to eat. And, true to his normal self, hasn't really stopped since.

Yesterday morning, right after my alarm went off, he looked at me next to him on the bed and promptly fell over into a seizure. Yipes. Off to the vet we went (again) for more violations from behind (him, not me). He stayed the afternoon this time, and came home with a diagnosis of vastly improved kidney function but mysteriously low blood sugar. Since it's really hard to feed a cat jelly beans, he's got a dextrose solution made for cattle that now goes into his drip line in the evening. He's also got a bizarre blue IV catheter port on one of his front paws and a whopping edema in the other paw, making it look like a Muppet paw or something. Thus, his superhero immortal nickname: Mega-Paw.

A moment ago, I just switched out a fresh bag of Ringer's and managed not to contaminate anything, explode a bag of sticky fluids all over myself, or stab myself with an errant needle. As I've not worked at a vet's office since early 2001, I was quite proud of myself, and as victory surged through me, I shot both arms up in the air and hooted, "I have the power of Greyskull!"

My dad, walking through the kitchen at this particular moment and unfamiliar with pop culture cartoon series of the mid-eighties, is now under the impression that I have the power of numbskull, and isn't sure I should be advertising it quite so proudly.

19 April 2008

What a Crock

My poor mom thinks she's losing her mind. Any other time we might agree with her--she's a very good candidate--but this time, there's a reason.

All morning I have been struggling to retain my composure. This is quite a feat for me. I do not have the world's best poker face. I love being in on a secret, and letting people know that I'm in on it. Fortunately, my mom is (as mentioned above) often oblivious to the subtext in interactions. so I'm working this to my advantage.

Several weeks ago, my mom fell in love with a red kitchen compost crock. At the time, it wasn't an immediate issue, because our interim container is safely out on the screen porch. It is, in fact, the old diaper pail, which actually functions quite well when you think about it. The problem is it's on the screen porch, which shortly will become the primary gathering place for meals and other times. There won't be enough room for a diaper pail, let alone the inconvenience of a day's worth of decaying vegetation at someone's feet while they're eating.

This morning, my mom decided she was going to order said compost crock, and began to tear the kitchen apart for the catalogue. It has been driving her practically batshit that she can't find it. She's been down to the cellar recycling pile, she's been through each catalogue three times, to make sure it's not in there. She's on the verge of a major obsession.

My dad and I are watching this with a great deal of sidelong amusement and exploding-cheek faces over her crouched figure on the floor.  Because the catalogue has been up on my desk for three weeks; about ten minutes after my mom announced that she liked the red one best, I emailed my sister and offered to split the price for Mother's Day.

I really don't know how much more of this frantic catalogue-digging I can handle before I have pity on my poor mom. One thing's for certain: if she doesn't get sidetracked by something soon, when she opens her gift a few Sundays from now, it will be rendered utterly useless immediately, from her cracking it over the top of my stubborn head.

17 April 2008

Brave and Crazy (and I Ain't Tellin Who Is Who)

If one of you is a cat, and the other of you is a person, there are certain rules.

One of these rules is, no matter how much you wish it to be otherwise, the one of you who is a person must, before retiring to another room for even just a moment, place some sort of protective covering over the bacon bits on the sideboard next to the spinach salad.  Because if you do not do this, the one of you who is a cat will shortly be discovered (by someone else, in this case) with his entire head brazenly in the salad bowl. You must either learn to "cover up, buttercup," or learn to go without bacon bits in your spinach salad.

This is just the way it is. No amount of yelling, scolding, training, or flat-out cussing is ever going to make it any different.

06 April 2008

Overexposure

I went long on this because I really got stuck. Not because I couldn't come up with a response--no, quite the opposite. I got stuck because I had too many responses crowding the door to my brain, each trying to get through first and be picked up and held. As a result, this might end up being one of those "all over the damn place" posts.

My problem remains that two of the three men dearest to me in the world are professional photographers--my father, a fine art photographer after twenty-five years in the judicial branch, and my dearest friend and mentor, a photojournalist and filmmaker. One thing this means is that what gets saved from our house fire is not photographs but a metal case containing binders crammed with negative sleeves. That's just the way it is. The cats have legs, they can get out on their own.

Another thing it means is that often, the memories I have of people and events are dictated from a different perspective. We don't pose for photographs in my family. We go about our daily business, assured in the knowledge that we will one day find it magically recreated in the tiny squares of a contact sheet and wonder aloud why we didn't see the long snout of the 75mm lens crawling up into our faces at the time.

A third thing it means is that watching TV is a bitch. My dad will see things going on in the corner of the frame that those of us without secret x-ray vision would never notice. Robin has been known to yell "Focus!" at a perfectly normal screen, or criticize its headroom. Good God, man, it's baseball. Let the rest of us watch the World Series in peace, will ya? Not even CSI is safe. The other night, as Catherine Willows was documenting a crime scene, my dad winced as the flash went off three times in rapid succession: "That's the trouble with digital. People take three shots when all they need is one." Um, yeah dad, but this is about documenting evidence, not making things look pretty. It's not like it's going anywhere. The victim isn't going to get up any time soon and blow the composition.

I can't even call them digital cameras without getting yelled at. My dad refers to them--not arbitrarily--as computers with lenses. He's right, of course. That's really what they are. A digital image is not a photograph, since etymologically speaking a photograph is a picture made with light. There's no light involved in creating a digital image, just pixels. Nevertheless, this frequently causes another chorus of, "Yeah, whatever dad."

And don't even get him started on film vs. digital. He's got several dozen valid points, among them clarity, depth, control of your input (ever seen a digital camera with a "manual" shutter setting?) But sometimes digital is just so damned convenient. You can go to Africa and not have to check $2000 worth of overage in luggage. You can carry 14 gigs of memory a lot more easily than 60 rolls of film. (I know this. I've packed 60 rolls of film. They end up everywhere. In his shoes. In the first aid kit. Shirt pockets. Tucked between his shaving kit and his toothbrush. In his underwear, though not usually while he's wearing it.) But on the other hand, so many people go digital because they think you don't have to think. You just shoot. Manipulate later. It's art, some of it, but is it photography? How do you explain depth of field to someone who's never had to calculate it because the computer does it for them? How do you explain the tension of waiting for a shot, your fingers itching for the shutter but your brain overriding them because your eye knows the moment is not yet come? The magic of standing in a darkened closet, waiting for the image to swim up through the bath in pieces toward you?

21 March 2008

This Space Intentionally Left Blank

Although I think a much shorter and more comprehensive list would be entitled "Things I Get," that was not this week's assignment. So here goes, in no particular order (sort of like my life):

Marshmallow fluff. I appreciate it, especially paired with peanut butter on Arnold's Country White bread. But I don't get it.

Giraffes. People are surprised by this one. They want to know about platypuses. Those make total sense to me: leftover parts smorgasbord. No, it's giraffes I struggle to understand. It's not the long neck; I can deal with that. Someone's got to eat all those yummy green leaves (and everyone has their own Slurpee machine--wait, wrong post). It's the fact that they have tremendously long black tongues. Yes, black. And no vocal cords. How cruel is that? To be given all that space, all that equipment--and nothing to say. And did I mention their tongues are black? Poor giraffes.

Why my refrigerator has a light, but not my freezer. Don't my waffles need to see, too?

Why Snickers bars have a label that cautions, "Warning. May contain nuts." Yes, and so might the marketing department.

Algebra. Nuff said.

Gary Snyder's poetry. Again, I like it. Just don't get it. Same for Medbh MGuckian, except for the part about liking it.

Why God in his infinite wisdom has seen to give us two kidneys and one bladder. And then put a uterus on top of mine. I realise that space is at a premium here, but come on. Two processing plants and one holding tank? Couldn't you have at least had a better overflow valve? If nothing else, couldn't you have made it a shorter trip to the bathroom at midnight?

Why are Peeps always stale, even the day after Easter?

Why do people insist on writing "This page intentionally left blank" on an odd-page of a manuscript? Don't they get it? What about something like, "This page intentionally left otherwise blank" or "This page would have been left blank, except I had to go fuck it up by printing something useless on it, thereby wasting another tree" or even "Hi mom" ?

Where all the light brown m+m's went. I miss the tan ones.

Note that nowhere on this list has been found "Why don't sheep shrink when it rains?" That would be because the lovely Mary O'Brien of Twist patiently explained this to me one evening over homemade gingerbread. I'd always assumed it was because it doesn't rain hot water, but Mary-O assures me it's the agitation in the washing process that felts wool, as much as anything in the temperature of the water. I'd theoretically have to follow them around in the pasture and "zhuzh" them one at a time if I wanted them to felt. Or perhaps I could find another way to agitate them, like sneaking up behind them and yelling "Lamb chops! Mutton! Haggis!!" That would likely be highly agitating to a sheep.

27 February 2008

Breaking News

So, I'm out of the marathon in April. What I'd thought were nagging shin splints that just would not quit turned out to be multiple stress fractures. Yeehaw. The bad news, aside from the kibosh on Nashville of course, is that there's pretty much nothing to do for stress fractures except sit around on my ass with ice and pop Tylenol every four hours. (good thing I have a sturdy liver, Terri!) And whine a lot about the various, lesser forms of odious cross-training.

The good news (and yes, there is some) is that I'm not a wimp. There's a very good reason my legs have hurt like hell every time I've run for the past several weeks: they're broken, dumbass.

22 February 2008

Overheard at the End of My Driveway

Cast of Characters

Him: socially inept, cheerful but fairly clueless, very Italian last name. Son of landlord to houseful of Mexican immigrants of uncertain status who do farmwork for them.
Me: anti-social, fairly often outraged, Irish temper. Bound in on three sides of property by this new landed gentry. Also currently cold, wet, and hungry.


Him: "I saw you out shoveling before."

Me: "Yup."

Him: "Don't you have Mexicans to do that for you?"

[beat.]

Me: "No, we use Eye-talians for that."

17 February 2008

While You Were Out

I love sleep. Always been a big fan of it. Unlike my sisters, who when we were growing up would bargain for later and later bedtimes, I never had one. This always confused the babysitter greatly, but my parents' insistence that I had enough sense to go to bed when I got tired usually proved true. At least during my childhood, anyway.

Somewhere during high school, I developed a love/hate relationship with sleep. Stage crew ran late, to nine, ten, sometimes eleven o'clock (on a school night!) and I had to be up at six to get to school on time. Late nights was when things got interesting--when my friends got original, creative, and sometimes illegal bugs up their butts, our parents went to sleep, friendships were forged and romances ignited. And, of course, there was homework to be done. Theoretically. I subconsciously became afraid that if I fell asleep on someone's couch/floor/lap/diner booth, I would miss something. This was likely based in firm reality, as I have a long-reaching history of being the first one to fall asleep at slumber parties and midnight gatherings. (One group of friends scattered across the country has begun to keep a scrapbook of photos from our somewhat annual gatherings at people's homes; every last one of them features at least one shot of me, asleep on the floor, while conversation rages around me. Enough so that renaming this blog Floors I Have Slept On would not be entirely inaccurate, if somewhat ungrammatical.)

Still, I adore my sleep. For a while in my twenties, this combination made me the worst of all possible things: a late sleeper. Saturdays I could sometimes sleep until noon and still wake up only from guilt at knowing what time it was. I hated it. Somewhere inside me was a morning person, waiting to be released from this bizarre ritual. It didn't help that I dated a series of night owls and insomniacs, starting with my first serious boyfriend. Even my best friend, who loved to rise at the ungodly hour of 5:30 to walk the dog and listen to the BBC, was an insomniac and could often be found roaming the house at midnight. The one morning he slept until quarter past eight, I was afraid to go in and check on him because I thought he might have died during the night.

And then there was my husband, who fell into sleep like dropping off the edge of a cliff. I used to tease him that he had two speeds: fast, and off. He would stay awake for hours into the night, sometimes days at a time, but when sleep came, it would take him in the middle of sentences, sometimes in the middle of words. And Lord knows there was no waking the man. Getting him out of bed and functional enough to light a cigarette was a ritual as drawn-out as a Japanese tea ceremony.

He was an entertaining sleeper, too, with vivid dreams that sometimes involved him spouting out dialogue for all the anthropomorphic characters, and acrobatics that more than once left me with interesting bruises to explain to friends. Sleep for him was in intricate dance of elbows and gangly limbs thrown wide, long hair strewn wildly across all our pillows, humping up under the blankets like a turtle, and something we used to refer to simply as "The Leg." The Leg was something to see, all right, not only for its cranelike humour, but also for its sheer flexibility. There was, quite simply, nothing this man would not do in his semi-conscious search for ORSP. (Optimal Rest and Sleeping Position, if you have to ask.)

These days I sleep alone, tweaking my nocturnal schedule so I'll have time to myself in the mornings and the evenings after my parents retire. I'm reverting to my morning-person schedule, though I still resent the alarm those days it reminds me that I'm only up because I have obligations that aren't to myself. I'm not lonely when I wake curled on my side of the bed, usually with a couple of cats strewn about in positions of utter somnolence. It's the nights that get to me. I still lie awake in the dark, listening for the cadence of his breathing, thinking about impossible fish missions and those ridiculous involuntary twitches that used to overcome him and scare the crap out of me, and waiting for the return of The Leg.

26 January 2008

Pandemonium at the Exploding Sheep Shop

If I had to use one word to describe my life right now, since pffffffht! is more of a sound effect I would have to say that miscellaneous does the job pretty well. Is everything the same as it was five weeks ago when last I managed to log in? Hell no. Has anything actually occurred in the interim? No, not really. Am I flying around ass-over-teakettle and occasionally putting my underwear on sideways? You betcha.

That's a true story, by the way. It's amazing how misinterpreting a single foundation garment when getting dressed for work can mess with your personal feng shui for the whole day, until suddenly, during a quiet moment in the late afternoon, it all becomes stunningly clear why you've been verhoodled since you got dressed.

Then again, maybe it wasn't my underwear. Maybe my underwear was doing okay, and I put the world on sideways yesterday. I wouldn't put it past me, considering the way the world's been acting of late. A small list, to demonstrate the sort of non-accomplishments with which my life is riddled this winter:

+my hips have been living in different time zones, but my chiropractor's dog seems to have cured me of this affliction temporarily
+I can knit socks! I am a knitting genius!
+I managed to drive into a brick wall while the car was off, in neutral, not moving, and I wasn't in it. This is the general consensus, anyway. The car's not telling.
+political protests might actually be a form of community service
+for three days at the beginning of January, all my internal organs were temporarily replaced with ginger ale dispensers
+there is a direct proportion between the percentage of your brain convincing your body that you are going to die from speed workouts and the endorphin rush you will get when you are done. Also the amount your nose will run while doing this in the snow
+a one-page statement on your teaching philosophy is a lot easier to write if you know what your philosophy actually is. Or, indeed, have one.
+Foxes. Lots of them.

I mean, really. My resemblance to the late Anne Boelyn is starting to be rather alarming.