Thursday, May 31, 2007
in the interest of public good, a scenario
Let's just say, only hypothetically speaking of course, you were hungry for breakfast this morning but didn't have any breakfast-y food.

And let's just say that when you opened the refrigerator and noticed that there were still eight or so chocolate-y birthday cupcakes left over from the weekend you decided that two of them would make a perfectly appropriate in-the-car-on-the-way-to-work meal.

And let's just assume, while we're still keeping it hypothetical over here, that while you're eating those two cupcakes as you’re traveling westward at upwards near 80 miles an hour on an anonymous interstate highway you happen to get black cupcake-y bits lodged firmly between your teeth and smooshed snugly in the nether regions of your pants.

(Now, mind you, this particular event would never ever happen to yours truly, seeing as I'm so incredibly health conscious and would never ever consider eating two cupcakes for breakfast or drinking a Stake and Shake milkshake for dinner, but in the interest of the common good I can travel to imagination land just this once.)

So, I’d imagine you're probably sitting there, black-toothed and chocolate-y crotched, and wondering what you should do, right?

Well, here’s what I wouldn’t recommend.

Facing the absence of dental floss, you probably shouldn’t decide to use a stray paper clip found in your purse to pick your teeth, because you just might hit a giant pothole, gouge your gums, and then promptly begin to bleed.

You also should most likely refrain from pouring water from a forgotten, half-drunk water bottle in your nether region to try and get the smooshed chocolate-y bits rinsed out, leaving your crotch cold and wet and unlikely to dry before arriving to work.

And when you do arrive to work, gums black and bleeding and crotch chocolate-y and wet, and someone asks, “What on Earth happened?,” you should probably just fess up, because a sarcastic response along the lines of, “Well, clearly I need to lay off the Skoal and see someone about my incontinence problem,” will most likely be greeted with only a blank stare instead of polite laugher, leaving both of you feeling rather uncomfortable and unable to maintain eye contact.

Furthermore, your co-worker will think you wee yourself, which is really not a nice thing to have someone think about you.

(Again, this would never ever happen to me. I’m far too well-adjusted to find myself in such a state. But you know me. I have quite the imagination, and I do so like to be helpful.)

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007
overheard in the hallway
On any given day I'm likely to hear far more than the average person's share of swear words, general insults, homophobic comments, and female screeching. Most times the angry din in localized in the hallway and tends to dissipate as the wee little angels pass my threshold. Hence, I usually keep my door closed, but today - just for kicks - I didn't. Here's a gem I collected whilst on my planning hour. Let it lift your soul, clean your bowels and help you on your crazy trip through life.

Girl #1: Nice freaking shoes, ho!
Girl #2: You like? Wal-Mart was having a sale. They were only ten bucks! (screech!)
Girl #1: What are they, like ten inch heels? How the hell can you walk in those things?
Girl #2: Oh, I can walk honey. Don't you worry about that. (smirking, finger wagging)
Girl #1: (growing reflective) You know, here's my thing. I'm pretty open-minded. I don't care about your race. And although it's totally gross, I don't really care about your sexual preferences either. Whatever, you know? But if there's one thing I totally hate, it's a girl who can't walk in high heels.
Girl #2: Oh, totally. TOTALLY! (pauses to think) But you know, I really don't like Mexicans much either when I really think about it.

(And you want to know the best part? Later in the day I totally saw Girl #2 bite the dust in her ridiculous lime-green Wal-Mart heels. I know I shouldn't laugh at a kid's misfortune, but...come on. You can really blame me?)


Tuesday, May 29, 2007
movies and memory lane
I feel like I’ve been neglecting things a bit over here in blog world but between work, birthdays, entertaining guests, and doing my best to murder as many computers as possible, well, let’s just say I’ve had a few balls in the air, so all apologies if I’ve seemed a bit distant recently. I don’t mean to be. You know I love you, baby.

So, since I had such a wonderful three day weekend and am consequently feeling tired and rather incapable of coming up with my own original ideas, today’s post will be yet another act of thievery, which I fear has been so common that I really ought to be locked up. But while I’m still a free woman, here, as prompted from Steve, are my five most memorable movie-going experiences. Rather than organize them chronologically, which would make far too much sense, I’m instead listing them in order of humiliation level (least to most). Try not to judge me too harshly. Or do. Whatever. I’ve got thick skin. (Figuratively speaking, of course; in reality, my skin is like freaking paper. The scratches and bruises on me after this weekend are ridiculous. But I digress.)

Friday Nights at the Drive-In
Back when drive-ins were common and I was young enough to get away with wearing pjs with footies, mom and dad and me and Matt would all crowd into my mom’s enormous, green Grand Prix and head out every Friday night - pajama-clad and large pizza resting on the dashboard – to search for the last remaining working radio transmitter so we could watch whatever relatively kid-friendly thing was showing. I barely remember what we saw (Back to the Future, I think, and some God-awful thing with Kevin Bacon who was cast as a crime-solving bike messenger or something equally absurd), but I do remember feeling oh so excited and cozy and happy. It was so innocently sweet that I get cavities just thinking about it.

Pulp Fiction
While I’d like to claim that I was the one cool enough to suggest seeing Pulp Fiction at the State Theater in Ann Arbor when it was first released and hardly anyone had heard of it yet, I’ll be honest and admit that it was my boyfriend, Billy, who was the hip one. He and I were two of only a handful of people in the theater, and I remember driving home thinking that I had just seen something that had completely blown my sixteen-year-old mind. The conversations about what was in Marsellus Wallaces’s briefcase were some of the deepest that Billy and I ever shared. And no, that’s not saying very much at all.

The English Patient
A different boyfriend took me to see this movie, and I don’t care how terribly lame this makes me sound – it was the single most romantic moment I’ve ever experienced at the movies. We had just started dating so were both firmly in the “enamored with each other” phase, held hands through the entire epic saga, and locked eyes when Ralph Fiennes, while carrying a dying Kristin Scott Thomas through the desert, comments that she’s wearing the thimble he bought her around her neck, and she looks up at him and says, “Of course, you idiot. I always wear it; I've always worn it; I've always loved you...” Sigh! No, it didn’t work out between Seth and me – he wore girl pants and shaved his armpits for Christ’s sake – but at least he gave me that one disgustingly sappy moment, if little else.

Eyes Wide Shut
In retrospect, I should have done a bit more research before I recommended to my mom that she and I go see this together. I don’t care how hip of mom you have or how good of a relationship the two of you share – no one should have to sit through a fifteen-minute orgy scene with her mother. Let’s just say it redefines “uncomfortable.”

I know, I know - but I was seventeen and it was forbidden. Me, Shelly and Matt S. were seniors in high school, and in a rare act of rebellion we blew off some required band function to see what all the fuss was about. Shelly was too young, so Matt and I had to pull out the ninja stealth to sneak her in. The movie was absolutely horrible, Shelly slept through nearly the entire thing, and Matt and I competed to see who could make the most sarcastic running commentary. It was awesome. Afterward, I told my mom that we had gone to see How to Make an American Quilt. When she asked me what it was about, I told her it was Winona Ryder’s epic journey for self-discovery through the fine art of quilt-making. The fact that she believed me, frankly, is astounding.

Looking back on this, I'm realizing that four of my five choices were released in the mid-nineties, and two of the five are practically porn. You'd think this might embarrass me, but not so much.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007
books: 13 down, 11 to go: finn
As it currently stands:

Stress Level: Elevated
Empty Fridge Level: Starvation
House Dirtiness Level: Positively Disgusting
Annoyance at Freshmen Level: Severe
Ninja Threat Level: Risking Absurdity
Wizard Threat Level: (Thankfully) Negligible

..and to top things off, my dog ate my laptop. (Well, not exactly. Let's just say there was an incident with a ball on a rope and a tall glass of water and now I'm a snobby Mac owner who hasn't yet figured out basic commands like "highlighting text." Whatever. It happens.)

What I'm trying (and, thanks to four hours sleep last night, probably failing) to say is things are nuts, so I'm going to keep this short. I'm sure you won't mind.

Finn, by Jon Clinch, is a retelling of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with Pap Finn as the primary protagonist. Beginning with a flayed corpse floating down the Mississippi, the novel is clearly much darker than the original, quite risky in that it depicts Huck as a mulatto, and - in my humble opinion - a much more interesting read than the novel that provided its inspiration. But to be honest, I'm a bit biased seeing as I hate "Huck Finn" almost as much as I hate American Idol and uncooked mushrooms, which is a bunch.

But although I found Finn's concept intriguing - even if not particularly original - and found Clinch to be a solid writer who certainly can turn a phrase, I didn't love it, it never begged to be picked up after being put down, and would have no idea who I'd recommend it to.

So, in a word: Meh.

Up Next: The Raw Shark Texts, by Steven Hall (and the website I've linked to is pretty spiffy, so ya'll should maybe check it.)

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007
yay! it's my birthday! pass me another chocolate choo choo!

(And Steve, you rock so hard for finding my second favorite KitH skit on YouTube. So very hard indeed!)


Monday, May 21, 2007
here's to learning, kissing yaks and statues of benjamin franklin, and dining with the amish
I'm back. I'm tired. And no, I didn't buy a bonnet or a t-shirt reading "I heart Intercourse, PA" (although I assure you that the absence of either purchase wasn't for lack of serious back-and-forth deliberation). But along with some history I did learn me some life lessons and stuff, and since I know you care about such things, here are a few learnings I took home with me from the great state of Pennsylvania:
  • Riding on a chartered bus as it zips through the winding, wooded mountains of PA is both equal parts breathtakingly gorgeous and white-knuckle-ingly terrifying; the balance, however, tips decisively in favor of the latter when the sun has nearly set, the bus begins a steep decent into the valley and four different warning signs are posted, the final one reading "Warning, Aggressive Drivers. High Crash Area." Yikes.
  • While on that chartered bus, it will take exactly three hours for me to lose all feeling in my right foot, four hours for my left, and I will completely lose all track of my bum around hour five. (I am happy to report that all feeling has returned, however, it was certainly disconcerting at the time.)
  • (Almost) Everyone looks insufferably cute in a bonnet, including yours truly.
  • If you ever need to verify the authenticity of 1700's Georgian brickwork and/or need to discern the difference between Belgian block and cobblestone streets, please let me be your girl.
  • Since I found endless amusement in Amish communities named "Intercourse," "Virginville," "Fertility," and "Blue Ball," I have come to the conclusion that despite owning both a uterus and a birth certificate verifying my age at 29, when it really comes down to it I'm basically a twelve-year-old boy.
  • Whenever I think my parents were too stifling when I was a teen (0r whenever my future teenagers bemoan my future stifling parenting), I will recall that kid whose mother sent him off on his weekend adventure with post-it notes on every single bill in his wallet instructing him on what day and for what purpose each may be used.
  • In the unlikely event that I ever feel ambitious enough to undergo a religious conversion, I think I'll choose Quakerism.
  • If I find myself on a overpriced nighttime walking tour of downtown Philadelphia where the battle for independence is being reenacted through a combination of projected images on the side of historical buildings whilst Walter Cronkite dryly provides narration through a set of hastily disinfected headphones covering my ears and when, at the conclusion of said narration, "God Bless America" begins to play, I'm a gonna stand stoically in the middle of the city's center and sing loudly, poorly, and completely unashamedly, because folks - that's just how I roll.
  • Finally, there are two sorts of chaperones: one naughty, one nice. The nice one comes prepared with band-aids and aspirin and gives extra money to kids who ignore their mothers' post-it notes. The naughty one, amongst other scandalous acts, can easily be swayed after only two funny text messages and a cheese and crackers bribe to let her underage students watch Scarface on the bus, encourages alarmingly disgusting petting-zoo behavior, and throws dozens of pamphlets for Intercourse, PA under the hotel room door of a group of students who mistakenly think they turn into ninjas after midnight. She also takes pictures of most of these occurrences. (Sure, you may be shaking your head right now in both disapproval and disgust, but for the sake of the world maintaining its proper balance I am convinced that both sorts of chaperones are absolutely necessary and it's unlikely you will convince me otherwise so no point in trying, buster.)

And with that, I'm spent. Pictures to come whenever I get around to it. Missed you. Love you. Kisses and such.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007
a on the streets of west philadelphia story
I'll be heading to Philadelphia in a few short hours to chaperone a school field trip, and frankly, I'm feeling a bit underwhelmed about the whole thing. Ordinarily I'd be excited to head to a new city and it's not that I'm not interested in how they do things over in Philly exactly, but I'm beginning to realize that the only real "vacations" I seem to take anymore are not only work-related, but usually involve traveling with no fewer than 30 teenagers in tow. As you might imagine, I'm starting to get a bit antsy for a trip that doesn't involve bed checks and curfews and sobriety (the latter especially).

But it is what it is I suppose, so in an attempt to pump myself up for Amish country and Gettysburg and the Betsy Ross House I'm going to shamelessly rip off a fellow blogger and say, hey - here's to hoping that while taking the guided tour of Philadelphia I may also find time to:
  • provide protection to a shy Amish boy whose accidental witness to a murder endangers his life and community and general way of life, yet still somehow find the time to seduce his puritanical, yet sexy mother,
  • simultaneously come to grips with my own prejudices and fight to convince the city of brotherly love of the injustice behind firing a sick, homosexual lawyer simply because he has AIDS,
  • help a nervous, whiny little boy who sees dead people despite the fact that I am, myself, one of the deceased,
  • bemoan the fact that I could have been a contender,
  • get a job as a nighttime shopping mall security guard and then, either due to boredom, magic or insanity, come to the conclusion that one of the mannequins is actually a living, breathing Kim Catrall and then promptly fall in love with her… err…it,
  • use time travel to bounce back-and-forth between a post-apocalyptic present and the pre-infection past in the hopes that I can stop a viral outbreak before it wreaks its havoc on the planet, while a rambling and twitchy Brad Pitt proves only to be a highly entertaining red herring,
  • move in with my rich auntie and uncle in Bel Aire after getting in a fight with a couple of guys who were up to no good and started making trouble in my neighborhood.
So, see? It won’t be so bad. At the very least, I’m betting I can waste some time conversing with my students about mutually engaging subjects such as Nintendo, Of Montreal, zombies, and Optimus Prime. Besides, it could be worse. I could be at school teaching my freshmen. (shiver.)

In closing, I know it's going to be difficult to us to be apart for so long, baby, but dry them tears. I'll be back Monday sometime or another in just enough time to turn 29. (double shiver.) And although for all practical purposes I will be without access to television, newspapers and the Internet until then my phone will still work, so do keep in touch my lovelies. Yes, do.


oh yes, there's a proper pre-philly post in the works, but first - shoes

(deep breath)

So, I went to the mall after work today to, among other things, look for a practical pair of comfortable black shoes to wear on my rapidly up-coming trip to Philadelphia. Practical shoes I found in spades, however I bypassed all of those and instead drove home with these:

because I honestly see nothing wrong with traversing Amish country and Civil War battlefields, blisters forming on my heels as my shoes slowly fill with blood, just so long as those shoes are as absolutely adorable as these.

(And if the first step is admitting you have a problem, then clearly I'm not quite ready for help.)

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007
three of the strangest "gifts" i've been given. ever.
Ordinarily, I freak out when kids get too close to my desk seeing as I need everything in its right place, and also because it's one of the precious few places I have that is entirely mine. However, exceptions can be made when a student's proximity to my personal space results in the giving and receiving of unexpected gifts. (And it does happen from time-to-time.) Today these gifts took the form of hand-drawn monsters which, if you even know me a little bit, is something that amuses me to no end. Each came with a title on the backside, and in the spirit of maintaining the artist's vision they've been included below in parentheses.

(no zombie is a good zombie)

(pac-man monster, who requires doves for sustenance)

(bearded telemonster)

Guess they heard my birthday is coming up. Either that, or my lecture on the Civil Rights Era wasn't nearly as engaging as I thought it would be. But either way, this proves that the weirdness of some of my kids is officially beyond debate.


Monday, May 14, 2007
as if it weren't hard enough to focus on work and the house and just in general getting stuff done... parents gave me my birthday gift a whole week early. Ordinarily I wouldn't bother to bore you with such trivial matters, but, well, it's just so awesome I feel compelled to bore you nonetheless. And in keeping with my "live as if I were a contestant on The Amazing Race" life philosophy, I assembled the entire freaking thing - all 14 pieces, 30 bolts, 30 washers and 20 nuts of it - by myself wearing flip-flops, a skirt and pretty blue dangly earrings.

Because, that's simply how I role.

So anyway, I'll be here until September if you need me - alternately reading and napping while the sounds of the birds and the wind and the mother over at Red-Neck House screaming obscenities at her three illegitimate children mix together to create the soundtrack of my summer.

Chloe will, of course, be joining me.


Thursday, May 10, 2007
what hands do
Aside from residual rage for that woman at my meeting today who snapped her gum for over an hour, I've got nothing. So, in place of my *ahem* humor and wit, please enjoy some awesome hand-puppetry. On me.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007
loquacious dan
I recognize that my job can be quite difficult and that there are plenty of misplaced souls out in the world who really shouldn't be teaching, yet are. It's not that I feel that I am one of those people exactly, but there are moments when I wonder if I really am doing the best that I possibly can since my job is a pretty important one and I certainly don't want to be responsible for effing up America's youth. But then there are times, like this particular moment that I'm about to share, when I start feeling pretty darned pleased with the professional me.

So, it's the end of the day and I'm waiting in line to use the one working copy machine in the building. Dan, a thirty-something history teacher who I used to team with a few years back, is waiting in line in front of me. Dan's nothing if not verbose, so he starts chatting me up while we wait and it comes out that we're both going to be out of the classroom tomorrow - me for a curriculum meeting, and he to fake sick so he can go hunting. You see, not only is Dan rather loquacious, but he is also unnecessarily honest; for instance, he once sat down at the staff lunch table and admitted, without anyone inquiring, that he was eating some unknown kid's sack lunch that he found on the floor in the hallway of the school. (Which is almost as disgusting as the time he started eating a large piece of summer sausage that had been left unrefrigerated for almost two weeks. He claimed it was fine, though, since he had cut off the moldy end piece.)

But back to me feeling good about being me. To the best of my memory, Dan's interminable end of the conversation when a little something like this:

Yeah, I'm going to be "sick" tomorrow. We're going to be gettin' up about four to drive all the way up to H--- and go turkey huntin'. As it is, I'll need to be in bed by eight or I'll be wrecked tomorrow. It wouldn't be so bad if I weren't so hungover. Yeah, a bunch of my buddies came over last night to throw some horseshoes - we had the spot lights on so we could play in the dark - and, I didn't mean to but I guess I got pretty drunk. (Slight chuckle) My wife was pretty pissed because I guess I passed out in the field around two in the morning and she had to come out and get me. Ha! You know, as I was driving in this morning I tried practicing my turkey calls but I realized that I was still a little drunk! Yeah, today was rough. I tried to sneak in a nap during my planning hour, but you know how kids are. They kept knocking on my door wanting to make up tests and stuff, so I ended up having to shut off my lights so I could snooze a bit. I just hope I'll be good by tomorrow morning. It's going to be a long one...I might have to be "sick" on Friday too! You know how it is...

(Actually, no, I don't know how it is, but, yep, I am feeling pretty smug right about now. As usual, thanks to Dan for the self-esteem boost.)

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007
video tuesday
Today's been a long one and I'm feeling a bit beat, so instead of thinking too hard I'm just going to "borrow" from A Special Way of Being Afraid and post a video for your Tuesday. (Well, he does them on Wednesdays, but whatever. Close enough.) Although the video is absurdly corny in the way that only those from the early nineties can be, it's the song - my all time favorite Crowded House song, which puts it in the running for my all-time favorite song - that you should pay attention to.

Oh my, "Your skin is like water on a burning beach..." it's been 14 years and that moment still slays me. When's the reunion album (featuring Johnny Marr!) coming out again?

Monday, May 07, 2007
word of the day: nubes

Whenever I'm out of the classroom for any period of time longer than one day I tend to get nervous. See, I don't know if you've completely figured it out yet, but quite a few of my kids this year, a bit...*challenged* in the behavior, maturity and impulse control departments. And as bad as they are for me on any given day, I cringe at how they must behave for the poor schlub who signs up to be my sub. In fact, one of the teachers who I team with just had a guest teacher claim our kids are so bad that she will never sub for him or me or our other teammate again. (Which I think is a bit unfair; after all, she wasn't in my classroom. But still, I guess I get it. My kids can be scary, and I would never recommend them for the pregnant or those with preexisting heart conditions.) So, add all of this to the fact that Thursday, one of the days I was out, was a complete school-wide, 12 hour-long debacle and you can imagine my level of sweaty-palmed apprehension whilst opening up my sub report.

But, surprisingly, it turned out to be fine. In fact, he actually said my kids are good. And while this leads me to believe that he might have either been a) lying, but desperate for employment; b) blind and deaf; or c) insane; you know I'm going to request him as often as possible. And when I think about it, the stars have sort of been aligning for me recently so I'll just keep riding the train of good fortune for as long as it lasts.

All of this leads me, as always, to my 6th hour, aka - the monkey house. I am always particularly worried about them, and even more nervous about kids like RJ and Taylor, who tend to be the worst offenders.

So, I’m sitting at my desk during the passing time right before 6th hour when RJ, who has very little respect for personal space, pulls up a seat and sits down next to me. Giving me his best “poor little puppy” eyes, he starts with a whiny-voiced question, “You’re not going to be gone again on Thursday, are you?”

“Yes,” I reply. “I have another curriculum meeting.”

“But why? I hate it when you’re out and we have subs,” he says, slamming his hand down on my desk.

This throws me for a loop since kids historically love sub days, so I feel compelled to dive a bit deeper and ask him why he hates my absences.

“Because we get bad sub reports and I get in trouble," he matter-of-factly replies.

“But RJ,” I say in my best reassuring voice, “the sub said you were good.”

“Yeah, your sub said that, but I always get in trouble in all my other classes. I can’t behave for anyone other than you.”

Floored, I ask with raised eyebrows, “You behave for me?”

It seems that we had drawn a bit of a crowd now, with four or five of RJ’s minions circling around my desk to listen in, and their presence leads him to change the subject to – what else – boobs.

“So, are we watching Romeo and Juliet again today?”

I assure him that we are, to which he slyly asks, “Is today the day we get to see the naughty bits?”

“No, that’s in Act 3. But,” and I’m terrifically firm here, “you will absolutely NOT be watching any naughty bits in my classroom.”

“Besides, RJ,” Taylor now chimes in, “Juliet’s like, twelve. We don’t want to see that.”

Dismayed, RJ continues, “They’re Juliet’s naughty bits? Oh man, I was hoping it was some other lady. I don’t want to see no nubes!”

Sensing where this might be going, I try to interrupt but fail before Taylor asks, “what are nubes?”

“Okay! That’s enough!” I start, but my protests fall on deaf ears as RJ explains,

“Nubes are prepubescent boobs.”

“Oh.” Taylor ponders this for a minute before he counters, “Wouldn’t that be pub..”

And it’s here when I literally have to spring up and throw my hand over his mouth to keep the word in, saying in my best down-to-business voice, “Okay, and we’re done! That’s absolutely enough!”

Thankfully, there is a brief silence and I am relieved that this conversation appears to be over (at least for now), when RJ stands up, pats me on the top of my head, and says,

“See? With our other teachers that could have gone much worse. Really, we can only behave for you, Mrs. W.”

(Seriously. How many days left until June?)


Sunday, May 06, 2007
should be
Oh dear.

My, but if things haven't been furiously busy for yours truly. Although some of that recent busyness was centered around an event that no one wanted to see come to fruition, over the past four days I was was also able to spend some quality time with about 75% of the people who I love the most in the world, and that part was awesome.

But now that I'm back home and assuming a comfortable position on my sofa with a very tuckered red dog at my feet, I'm realizing that I still have a truly disgustingly long list of things to do. Check it if you don't believe me:

I should be tackling that huge pile of laundry.
Should be doing something to resolve the "my DVR didn't record Survivor" crisis.
Should be grading research papers.
Should be unpacking.
Should be doing a bit of thinking about some things and some stuff.
Should be grading research papers.
Should be going to the grocery store.
Should be finishing that book I'm reading.
Should be grading research papers.
Should be catching up on the 6+ hours of essential television that I've missed while being away.
Should be doing something about my dog, who smells pretty pungent after four days in the kennel.
And I really, really should be grading those $#@*-ing research papers.

But I'm not. 'Stead, I'm playing bloons.

And when I get done with that, you know I'm just going to play more bloons. After all, a girl's got her priorities.

(Addictive-as-crack game discovered via Little Red Boat, a blog that I love yet still curse for alerting me to something that is sure to consume much more of my time in the days to come.)

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007
My very first sleep-over was at my Aunt Peggy's house. The details are more than a little fuzzy seeing as I was only five years old at the time, but I do remember that she made me meals like my mommy did, taught me how to play Connect Four, and let me watch Mommie Dearest (a movie that scared the bejezzus out of me, but I would never admit it). We had just finished watching Faye Dunaway beat her daughter with clothes hangers, and her eyes had a devilish glint as she she turned to ask me which one of my parents was the most like Joan Crawford. Too young and naive to realize I could diplomatically laugh the question away, I promptly answered "my dad because he's the one who spanks me." She giggled all the way to the telephone. After telling her brother what his sweetheart of a daughter said about him, she managed to convince him to let me stay one more night. Two nights turned into three, which turned into a week because I was having too much fun to leave.

I remember swimming in the pool at Hide-A-Way Hills and seeing Peg in her bathing suit. Curious, I asked my mom about the funny skin on her hip and on her knee. That was the moment when I learned what cancer was. That was also the moment when I learned who my Aunt was. Along with explaining her illness, my mom also told me that Peggy had been pregnant when she was diagnosed. Although it was terribly dangerous to do so, she waited until Kathryn was born before starting chemotherapy because she valued the life of her unborn baby more than her own.

Like me, she also loved to read. I remember later sleep-overs when I would take time out from playing with my cousins so that she and I could sit together in front of her bookshelf. She would pull several books down, give me a synopsis of each, and let me pick one to borrow. I'm sorry, Peg, I never did give you Thinner back, did I? I really liked it by the way, and you were right - that scene when the guy slips a penny under his alligator scales was terrifically and awesomely disgusting. You and I were always people who could appreciate such things.

One of my all-time favorite pictures is of her. We were dancing at Amanda's wedding when that Kanye West song came on. Smiling and acting the fool, Peg flashed a gang symbol that my very white, very suburban brother had taught her. I love that picture of you, Peg. I've since framed it, and grin every single time I see it.

Never one to wallow, she asked that we throw a party after her funeral. Of course we will miss her, but there will also be plenty of laughter as we celebrate her with one story leading into another and yet another - stories that honor her optimism, her humor, her fire, and her wit.

And out off all of us, she always looked the most like my grandmother. Of all the birds, they both loved cardinals most. And you know what, Peg? This morning a cardinal swooped down in front of my car as I drove into work. I thought of you both (as I always do when I see a red bird) and smiled a smile that lasted me all day long.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007
may. day.