Saturday, January 30, 2010

Well, I'll Be A Monkey's Uncle...

Yesterday afternoon, I was standing in the school's main office and waiting for the clock to say it was time for me to leave. Or, at the very least, for the hands to reflect a time that might lend a little credence to my fleeing the building with nary a backward glance.

With me were Mrs. Secretary Who Sits At The Front Desk and Mrs. Secretary Who Sits At The Back Desk. Also in attendance was Mrs. Perma-Sub.

The latter is the very nice lady who covers 99% of the substitute teacher duties in our building. She's sort of "on call" most days and often works in the office when she isn't needed in classrooms. She is currently helping out with some of the gaps in coverage currently being experienced in my own room.

This has been a tiring week. The kids managed to get through it and we even learned one or two of the things that the government wants students to know. However, I'd be lying if I said the staff absences didn't make it a "uniquely challenging experience." I am tired and it is when I am tired that the stupidest conversations seem to happen around me. I honestly don't try to make stupid conversation. I really don't. I can't help it if I am a magnet for the bizarre.

Mrs. Secretary Who Sits At The Back Desk: I'm going to put this vacuum cleaner away now.

Mrs Secretary Who Sits At The Front Desk: That's OK. I'll do it.

Mrs. Perma-Sub: No! Please...let me. I'm the one who spilled the tea leaves. I should do it.

Ms. Sheep: You spilled tea leaves?

MPS: Yes. I was going through my purse and....whoops! They all spilled out! I was really bummed because it was my special Monkey Tea.

MS: Pardon?

MSWSATFD: You heard her.

MSWSATBD: Monkey Tea. The special kind.

MS: You have tea made from monkeys? That seems kind of mean.

MPS: Of course not! That would be silly. This is tea that was picked by monkeys.

MS: Oh. Well that makes so much more sense. Thanks for clearing it up.

MSWSATFD: She's not kidding. It's really picked by monkeys.

MSWSATBD: And it's special.

MS: (thinks hard for a moment then has a sudden realization) I think you mean monks. Not monkeys. Monks pick tea. Monkeys don't pick tea. That's just science...

MPS: No. Well...yes. There are monks. Someone has to train the monkeys, after all.

MS: I still think you're misunderstanding your tea.

MPS: I can prove it. Look!

(She reaches into her purse and pulls out a packet of tea clearly labeled as having been picked by the aforementioned monkeys)

MS: Oh my god! They pick the tea!

MPS: I told you so.

MS: I wouldn't drink monkey picked tea.

MPS: It's really good. You should try it.

MS: No way. I know what else monkeys pick!

(Receiving only blank stares, Ms. Sheep helpfully mimes the picking up/throwing action seen in zoos the world over. Dawning horror settles over the office)

MPS: Why did you have to tell me that? Why?

MSWSATFD: Wait. Do you mean the monkeys throw their...

MPS: FE...

MSWSATBD: Stop! They're having a meeting in the next room! Don't yell FECES!!!!

MS: Why is it always me that gets involved in these conversations? And why is there always a meeting going on when I do?

I left the office with visions of monkeys dancing in my head and wondering if anyone thought to train them to wash their hands. Is there a sign in the monkey bathroom that reminds all employees about mandatory hand-washing? Do they make little monkey-sized rubber gloves? For that matter, has anyone considered the need for hairnets?

I barely slept last night for the worry of it all.

This could account for the lack of mitten progress today. I didn't once pick up the needles, although the mitten is well past the thumb gussets and could probably be finished by tomorrow if I could just get my mind off monkeys. I don't have good feeling about it, though. Once the monkeys get into your head, they hang on like, well... like monkeys. You just have to wait it out.

Monkey Picked Tea.
If I hadn't seen it, I woulda never believed it...

And yes. I thought about monkey mittens. And no. I won't be knitting any. You can't pick tea in mittens. Which is the least of my monkey concerns at the moment, but you just know they'd bring it up at the union meetings...


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

WNBP: Middle Is Better Than Nothing.

Today, I mentioned to one of the students that the week was moving along and that soon it would be over. An adult in the vicinity looked rather startled by that comment and said:

But it's only Wednesday...

I know. I am perfectly aware of the day. But it was after the noon hour and I need to find ways to put a positive spin on things right now. I didn't mention the fact that it is the day of the Wednesday Night Bullet Post. She wouldn't have understood that reference. It would have made things worse. Once you've identified Wednesday as something kind of like the end of the week, you are going to be the talk of the teacher's room. You don't want to make it any worse.

Here's this week's bullet points:

*This has been, at its best, a "trying" week.

*"Trying" is the nicest word I can think of right now.

*For the blog.

*The words I've used in real-time are not nearly so...polite.

*They are more colorful.

*Blindingly so.

*One staff member out due to surgery.

*Doc says she won't be back any time soon.

*That was all right. We could manage.

*Sort of...

*The Cheerful Teaching Assistant and I are an amazing team.

*Superheros, really.

*But now she has a family emergency.

*She never takes time off. I begrudge her nothing. She needs time, she gets it.

*Under the current circumstances, I will be alone in a room with middle school students for 7 hours a day.

*The same middle school students. They don't really go anywhere. They just sit there and stare blankly at me for hours and hours.

*All boys.

*With "adjustment issues."

*Please don't feel the need to say anything. I know. It's the sort of thing that takes the words away and leaves a person making naught but sputtering sounds.

*Still working on that second mitten.

*Got the thumb gusset done while I rode the little exercise bike today.

*It is not fair that I have to ride the little exercise bike after finding out that I have no staff with whom to share the joys of middle school teacher commentary.

*You should lose ten pounds automatically under those circumstances I think.

*The Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty is still completely enamoured with the felted mousie he got for Christmas.

*I give mousie another week.

*Then he'll be what we call in the fiber trade "a shapeless, soggy, woolen blob.

*The Big Fluffy Kitty doesn't seem to want the mousie so that all works out.

*She just wants crunchy treats.

*I emailed the Mr. Assistant Principal yesterday to let him know that I was hanging in there all alone upstairs in my classroom with The Children Of The Corn.

*I did, however, suggest that he send up one of those big dogs that carry cocoa in a barrel on their necks to the trapped skiers.

*He emailed back that we lost the dog in the budget cuts. He thought he might be able to swing the cocoa, though

*I, in turn, emailed that "cocoa" actually referred to the other beverage typically carried by those fabled doggies of yore.

*And that he should go see Mrs. Secretary Who Sits At The Back Desk because she knows how to write up the budget forms so the receipts go through without scrutiny.

*These are desperate times, after all. We can't be dithering around trying to find the cash for beverages.

*I didn't get any cocoa.

I can't think of anything else. That covers the highlights. Wednesday might be the middle of the week, but it's closer to Friday than Monday was. Tuesday is also closer to Friday, but it doesn't have the same "I can make it" feeling. Plus, my Tuesday was twelve days long so it didn't help me one little bit, thank you very much. Yup. In my world, Wednesday is just about like a Friday.

And that's the story I'm sticking with right now.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Cooler Heads

I think I was 18 when my friend Beth gave me a teddy bear. I might have been 19, now that I think of it. It was one of those ages...

She gave it to me as a birthday gift, I believe. Or for Christmas. I know it was a gift-giving kind of occasion. That I'm sure of. I was 18 or 19 and it was either my birthday or Christmas. There was wrapping paper, I'm also certain on that part of the story.

Whatever the age/circumstance, I got a teddy bear. And I've slept with the thing ever since.

It's not one of those foolish, little squishy bears, either. He's firmly stuffed. I could use him as a weapon should that Bogey Man Scenario ever play itself out, although I don't think I would do that to a teddy bear. He came with fully articulated arms and legs and a jaunty red bow. There has never been, nor ever will be, a bear so fine as this.

I am now in my mid-forties and the bear remains an integral part of the bedtime ritual. I cannot sleep without him. Many is the night I have had to frantically search the wadded sheets and blankets in order to locate him so I can get the slumbering underway. I should probably take this as a sign and start making my bed every morning but I don't want to get into any bad habits over a bear.

I am also very particular about positioning. Each night, I arrange the bear thusly: First, the arms must be raised upright. This gets them out of the way. I lay on my side and hold the bear with my arms crossed around him. He must be facing outward so he can breathe. Lastly, I place my chin firmly on top of his head and push down.

Then I can sleep.

It's the chin thing that does it, I fear. It puts pressure on his poor, little noggin. And twenty or so years of pressure is going to cause problems. It doesn't matter if you're a bear or a person. Twenty years of someone pushing their chin onto your head and eventually...

Your head will pop off.

That's what happened to my bear. The first time was quite horrifying. I had no idea. I just woke up next to a headless teddy bear. There's really no way to prepare for that. None.

I stitched the head back on, but not very well. Still, it lasted for almost two years and, if my bear's head flopped around a bit, it didn't bother me all that much. Recently, though, the stitches pulled loose, I was faced with a teddy bear head that flipped back like a trash can lid. It didn't come completely off nor was it the total decapitation that so startled me a while back. But it was still kind of unnerving. It also made it hard to do the chin-press thing and, as I've stated, I need to do that. Sleep depends upon it.

I resolved to deal with this matter as quickly as possible. Which, in my world, means "wait a month then get around to it because there is nothing good on TV." Yesterday fit that definition rather nicely so I gathered my supplies and prepared for bear surgery.

It is not easy sewing my bear's head back on. There is no seam there. He wasn't meant to come apart at that spot and I blame the bear-makers for not taking into consideration the need for chin-to-head application. The fabric is dense and I had to work through the thickest of stuffings. The only way to make it work was to stitch at an angle then pull the thread tightly to close the seam. Wanting a firmer stitch, I sewed with the little sample pack of dental floss I got at my last cleaning. It was stronger than the thread I used before and allowed for vigorous tugging.

The bear was stoic throughout and I rewarded his bravery by giving him a new jaunty bow. His old one was so tattered that it didn't do much for his overall look. I think he was pleased. There's no way to know for sure since teddy bears don't talk. Even if this one did speak at one point in the distant past, the stitches that represented his mouth disappeared long ago. He'd be the strong, silent type no matter what now.

But he didn't complain when I asked him to hold the mitten-in-progress so I take that as a sign of his appreciation.

It was a delicate operation, but worth the time. I sort of wish I'd read the fine print on the dental floss package because I didn't know that my dentist switched over to the mint flavor. I'm not sure that I wanted my bear to smell quite so crisp and fresh, but there are worse things to smell at bedtime. I'm not going to complain. I now have a bear in my bed and a place to rest my chin.

I slept like a baby last night.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Comparatively Speaking

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was a much younger version of the Sheepie you see today. I was teaching in a different school district and I wasn't knitting. I was what you might call "a knitter in remission." The combination of youth and not knitting might account for the slight arrogance I displayed back then.

Knitting humbles a person. That is just a fact. Nothing teaches more about humility than knitting.

My job then was pretty similar to the one I have now and, as such, it required that I have one or two Teaching Assistants. I interviewed several and ended up hiring a woman who was fairly new to the job market. She was more mature than most of the applicants, held a Master's degree and, due to a divorce, was now back in the job market.

She didn't so much need the work as she did the distraction. Her children were grown and her life was changing. She went from the big house, rich husband and career as wife and mother to a life she didn't fully understand.

We didn't communicate very well. I simply didn't "get" her, nor she me. The things that confounded her to the point of tears were the things I did every day. If the car needed service, the house needed maintenance or the bills needed paying, I did it. I lived on a budget and accepted that sometimes I didn't have the means to do as I pleased.

She, on the other hand, found these tasks and restrictions almost offensive. She didn't mean to be rude about it. Yet, she could come across that way. Even in her reduced circumstances, her life was easier than mine. She had resources at her disposal that I did not. Still, she found it all unbearable. It left her shaken to the point of clinical depression.

I was irritated by it. I was polite and professional but will admit that I made comments behind her back. The fact that she could dribble tears on her designer shoes and blow her nose on brand name tissues while the rest of us lived the exact same lives without drama frustrated me. As I said, I was younger then and arrogant. I didn't realize people aren't all in the same place on the learning curve. Even if I had known, I probably wouldn't have been too forgiving. And I didn't knit so I had yet to experience the humbling lessons the yarn has to teach us.

The whole thing was a good life lesson, though. I figured out along the way that misery is relative and that how a person feels is valid even if it isn't rational. The angst of a woman living in a nice house and with disposable income when compared to that of a person experiencing true loss is kind of silly. But that's just how it goes sometimes and comparing misery doesn't always make a person feel any better.

I also learned that eye-rolling is human nature in these kinds of situations. Who among us isn't going to want to rip the toilet plunger out of the murky water and hurl it at the person whining about how their new bathroom renovation is going slowly because the handmade tiles are on back order? It's a forgivable impulse.

Although why you would invite this person over to talk about handmade bath tiles while you plunge out your old, leaky toilet is beyond me...

It is in the spirit of this understanding attitude that I present to you my mitten. It is but a single mitten and yet it has consumed me. I have whined about that mitten and how it is trying to thwart me at every turn for a week now. might even be longer than that. I don't remember. All I know is that it has driven me crazy. It is a humble mitten. I've knit more challenging things without these issues. There is nothing fancy about this mitten at all. In fact, it is a simple project and not something to inspire such drama. But mittens have always fought me and drama is relative to the person experiencing it.

And so is eye-rolling. You have my permission to roll your eyes with wild abandon. In your position and faced with the same simple mitten, I'd probably do the same.

I cast on the second of the pair this morning and am moving forward. I'm not going to let my mitten angst keep me from finishing them and I'm going to try to keep it in perspective. After all, there are people out there tinking back lace shawls from the fiftieth repeat to the third and you don't hear them complaining, do you?

Although, I might point out that shawls do not have thumbs...


Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I just said, "EEP!" That's because I suddenly realized that it is later than I thought. And that it is Wednesday, not Tuesday. Short work weeks will do that to you. It's a nice surprise, but still a little disconcerting.

Let's get those bullet points up and running before the whole night gets away from me:

*I finished one mitten.

*Still need to weave in the ends.

*Mittens shouldn't have so many ends.

*These are not fair isle mittens.

*Regular mittens. Why all the ends???

*Also need to do magical things to the thumb. The thumb did what thumbs always do.

*It went awry.

*It's always something with thumbs.


*It's always "thumb-thing" with thumbs...

*I felt the need to write that out loud. Why, I don't know.

*I thought it would sound better than it actually read...

*I was discussing Very Important Life Decisions with The Cheerful Teaching Assistant today.

*Kids were off enjoying their gym class.

*Deep discussion.

*Overtones fairly dripping with import.

*Then I looked out the window and said, "Oh for crying out loud! It's snowing again!!!"

*Pithy Life Discussions don't stand a chance when more stupid snow starts falling.

*I lied. I didn't say, "for crying out loud."

*What I said was actually worse than that.

*Kids out of the room.

*Still...not the sort of thing you like to admit.

*More snow.

*It's Wednesday.

*That helps.

*Closer to Friday.

*I have no plans for the weekend.

*Should pencil in some time to knit a second mitten.

*I'm thinking that I'll do one without a thumb.

*One thumbed mitten is enough, don't you think?

*People who receive handknit mittens as a gift shouldn't get all judgemental about them.

*It would be impolite to question my thumb decisions.

*That's just good manners.

*Seriously. I'll do anything to not have to knit another thumb.


*Even weaving in all those ends that shouldn't be there on a simple mitten is better than knitting a thumb.

*Of course, I need the ends near the thumb so I can stitch up the stupid holes.

*Karmic. Sort of...

*When the Cheerful Teaching Assistant arrived to start her shift today, I was glad to see her.

*I needed someone to watch the kids so I could go to the bathroom.

*And I said so.

*The Great Debater, who was working diligently at his laptop, looked up and said as only a 14 year old boy can, "Um...thanks for sharing."

*Teenage boys do not understand or sympathize with the fickle nature of the middle age bladder.

*In fact, they will roll their eyes and make the owner of said bladder feel rather decrepit.


*I'd have spoken up in defense of the trembling bladder except I didn't really have time for that sort of thing.

*Two cups of coffee...
*I'm not knitting mittens for that kid. Not even the thumbless kind.

And that's the news from here. At least the stuff that's fit to print. And a little of the stuff that's not exactly fit to print but which sometimes slips through anyway. I must now head off to stare at a finished mitten and make up some excuses for not dealing with the thumb. That should take up a good part of my evening and then it's off to bed. I need my rest.

There's still another mitten left to go and I'm pretty sure I'm going to end up knitting a thumb.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Truth Be Told

There are lots of jobs that look simpler than they really are. I know this. I am aware. I have insight into the situation even if I don't have expertise.

I know that just because I only ever see the pharmacist counting pills, that her job is actually far more complex. I can count. That doesn't make me a pharmacist.

I know that air traffic controllers only seem to be passively watching dots on a screen. There is no way on this earth I would ever want that job. Air travel as we know it would cease to exist. No one would fly. It would be safer to just roll the planes around on the ground.

I often hear that teachers have really short working days. People think that the day starts when the kids sit down for the first class and ends when the last bell rings. I am, in fact, a teacher and I know this to be untrue. There's lots of vacation time, granted. But not the fabulous day to day schedule that people see on the surface of it all.

As a result of all this great insight, I know that the guy doing the weather every night is not just a big smile with the ability to "put the map in motion." The whole thing is a science and maybe a little bit of an art form. You don't just guess at the forecast. You study stuff and use big words. Meteorology is hard work. While everyone else is looking out the window for a clue, these fine men and women are casting their gazes further.

This did not stop me from calling everyone involved in the profession a liar at least fifty times over the past week or so. One minute, I'm told to batten the hatches for a big ol' storm. The next, I'm directed to stand down because it's not going to be a big deal. And then it's Monday and I'm clearing a foot of snow from my car.

Today, I was told to expect a few snow showers. These, as I recall, were the last few remnants from the big storm that came in spite of a forecast that kept changing and lying to me every few days. I should have learned something from that experience. I should have known better.

I was still surprised by the endless flakes falling from the sky. No, it wasn't the sort of thing that left piles of snow all over the place. However, it did make for a tricky ride home this afternoon and forced me to resort to that short work day that everyone thinks teachers have. Once the last kidlet was on a bus, I was out the door. I know that the meteorologists weren't lying to me.

It just felt like it...

I suppose that, in the spirit of honesty, I should admit to not finishing that mitten yesterday. I should further confess that it was the thumb. I hate knitting thumbs. I either think I know better and ignore the pattern notes at my peril or I go against my better judgement and do what the pattern says. Again with the peril.

Thumbs thwart me. Thumbs are as tricky as weather forecasts. You can use all the science in the world to figure them out, but they still sometimes end up doing something unexpected.

I feel better for being honest about it, though. I knit some thumb while I was riding the little exercise bike this afternoon. The minor snow showers that weren't supposed to be a big deal fell like mad outside while the thumb took ever more interesting turns and, somehow, the world seemed to be in balance.

I hear that the weather will be improving later in the week. And the thumb seems to be nearing completion.

Quite honestly, I trust neither of these eventualities.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Deleting The Truth

Three day weekends are pretty awesome. They are also just a little bit deceptive. They seem bigger than they really are, the ultimate optical illusion. You think you can fit lots and lots of stuff in there. And you can. However, you have to be honest with yourself about how many hours are truly in a day and how many of those can be spent sitting on the couch playing computer games.

If you let yourself get fooled by the illusion, you might start thinking that sitting and playing computer games is a fine thing to do. You'll tell yourself that you have plenty of time in which to do all the things you put on that list you made back when the weekend was all fresh and new.
Suddenly, you will glance up at the clock and cry out in horror, "6:00? How the heck did that happen??? I just got out of bed...I think."

The fact of the matter is that I did not just get out of bed, although I did sleep in a bit today. I had plenty of time to do a few things on my list. Instead, I failed to account for the fact that clocks move in a forward direction and I let the hours slide away while merrily playing computer games.

A few things got done. I can honestly say that I didn't waste the entire day. But I'd be lying if I said I used my time well. Mopping the kitchen floor? No. That is not done. Finding my favorite brown sweater that disappeared a week ago? No. Didn't even bother looking. Knitting one whole mitten?

Well, you tell me. Does that look like a whole mitten?

Even using the loosest possible definition of "mitten," this does not qualify. It's not even a fingerless mitt, really. It's a thumbless thing and lacking most of the features one looks for in a hand warming accessory. It is also of a singular nature, but I don't want to compound my feelings of failure so we will not dwell upon this any further.

Fortunately, I make my lists using a computer application. I can delete stuff and there won't be so much as a trace of my failure unless they bring in a data retrieval team. Further, I am using a trial version until I can decide which program I want to purchase. Even if I don't delete my scheduling flights of fancy and failure, the whole thing goes away in fifteen days. it never happened. Sort of like the hours disappear when you are playing computer games on a gray, snowy Sunday.

Plus, there's always tomorrow. The pressure of the last day in a three day weekend sometimes spurs me to greatness. There is every reason to hope for shiny floors and finished thumbs. It will just take some concentration and the will to turn off the laptop.

Unless, of course, I fail to finish the game before bedtime. Then I'll have to put in a few more hours tomorrow. After that, though, I'll be the most efficient doer of stuff you've ever seen!


Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Cupful Of Trouble

I'm a little short-staffed in my classroom at the moment. The Organized Teaching Assistant recently had surgery and is home recuperating. That leaves The Cheerful Teaching Assistant and me to keep the peace for the foreseeable future. Or the end of the month. Or less. Or longer. It's all up to the OTA's surgeon and he won't take my calls. Or my bribe money.

I had a number of students absent on Friday so we divvied up the assignments for the day fairly easily. The CTA would travel on the bus so that our two eligible students could enjoy a morning of bowling as a reward for all their hard work and not being too horrible. I would remain behind to play video games with The Kid Who Doesn't Have An Off Switch. We don't have days of such fun and frivolity all the time, but every once in a while we like to kick up our heels. It helps. We say it's for the kids, but I don't think we're fooling anyone.

It is debatable who got the better of the assignments for that day and I'll leave it up to you to decide for yourself whether I won or lost that coin toss. There was no "ideal" in this situation.

Before the bus arrived and while the kids were in other classes, I spent a little time perusing the interwebs in search of a new coffee maker. Mine has been leaking all over the counter for a year now. I felt that living with this situation was a just punishment for buying the thing in the first place. I knew better. The last one I had didn't work any more efficiently and I felt that making the same mistake twice deserved my being taught a lesson. However, even I can't punish myself forever. I needed a new coffee maker. And I was willing to pay as much as fifty whole dollars to remedy the situation.

That's right. Fifty. Whole. Dollars. I'm nothing if not dedicated to my morning java and am a mighty big spender. I even knew what I wanted. There's a miracle machine out there with the grinder right in it so you don't have to waste so much as a second in between wanting coffee and brewing it. It does it all. You just put in the beans and presto! I even found one for less than fifty whole dollars!

I mentioned this to the CTA who suggested that I might like one of those fancy, one cup deals that comes with the cool little cups of pre-measured coffee. I declined. One cup coffee makers aren't enough. I need more. Much more. Besides, they cost more than fifty whole dollars. They cost almost two fifty whole dollars and that was more than I wanted to pay.

The CTA left for the bowling trip and I played a few games with TKWDHAOS. Then he decided that I wasn't enough competition for him and I was free to shop for coffee makers again. I would have done some knitting, but I forgot it. As the only other choice was paperwork, I thought that looking for coffee makers was the better time killer.

To appease the CTA, I looked up the machine she suggested. Surprisingly, I found several features that met my needs. It worked fast so I could actually brew the morning's coffee for the day pretty easily. It had an auto-start option and you could even buy a filter that let you use your own coffee instead of the packaged stuff. It was more than fifty whole dollars, but it was becoming more and more appealing to me.

The CTA returned and I told her what I'd learned. She is a shopping enabler of the highest degree and made several good points in favor of spending more than fifty whole dollars on something as important to my day as coffee. I was 90% won over by day's end. I checked the store's website to make sure that the item was in stock before I left school and headed out. I still wasn't sure. Except for the part where I was...

I arrived at the store with that 10% doubt factor nagging at me from the back of my head. However, I was so entranced by the thought of the fifty whole dollars times two machine that I quickly pushed that little voice aside. I was going to do it! I really was!

I located the little filter in the coffee section and put it in my cart. I was going to need that. It would add twelve more whole dollars to my bill, but would mean my coffee at home wouldn't be going to waste. Then I began searching for the coffee maker of my dreams.

They didn't have it. Not anywhere in the store. I looked and looked. They had the little filter. But not the big fifty whole dollars times two machine. I got that frustrated, grumpy feeling I sometimes get when I am thwarted in my quest to spend more than fifty whole dollars. I ended up putting the little filter back to make room for the coffee maker that was less than fifty whole dollars. The one that I was going to buy in the first place back before I got all sidetracked by tales of fancier coffee makers.

The whole thing made me tired. It seemed like a lot of work just for a cup of coffee, although I suppose I can always make a cup of coffee to wake up from it all.'s a long way to go to end up where you started.

Even the Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty was tuckered out from all the excitement.

I suppose it could also have something to do with the fact that he spent four hours playing with the box the coffee maker came in. It was a big day for everyone. He really should rest up, though.

The grinder on the new coffee maker is stupidly loud and scares the ever-lovin' daylights out of him. Mornings should be fun from now on...


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

WNBP: Babies And Ten Years In Therapy

Ah, Wednesday! You might get a bad rap from others, what with being the middle of the week and all. Some people don't see your beauty. They don't understand how you have a certain "something" that makes the day just a little bit brighter. You may not be Friday, but you ain't chopped liver. You are the day of the Wednesday Night Bullet Post! How can I not love you for that?

Here's what I came up with for this particular beauty of a Wednesday:

*As I headed out for today's commute, the car told me that it was -4 degrees.

*I often think that my car is overly hysterical about the weather. It gets all worked up.

*Today, though, I felt that it was being somewhat optimistic.

*Cold out there...

*I started anew on the mittens for Mrs. Secretary Who Sits At The Back Desk.

*There is a cuff.

*And a little bit of not-cuff.

*There will be no further flights of fancy with these mittens.

*Plain mittens will be finished. Thrummed mittens will only lead to tears.

*I just started Chris Wooding's Poison.

*Even if you don't care for Youth Lit, I'd still suggest you give this author a try.


*The Kid Who Doesn't Have An Off Switch didn't want to eat lunch in the cafeteria today so he ate in the classroom.

*He's my only 7th grader.

*Why he suddenly felt that the dining experience would be improved by my having a baby, I don't know.

*But that's what he felt we needed to discuss. He even drew a picture of my future child on the board for me.

*He's not a great artist so he had to get creative.

*Round baby with flippers.

*Then he decided it looked like an alien baby so he made it green.

*And wrote, "Happy Pregnancy, Ms. Sheep!"

*The Cheerful Teaching Assistant was quite amused.

*She's not getting any mittens from me.

*I am not going to explain menopause to a 12 year old at lunch. That is not in my contract.

*The entire episode ended thusly:

TKWDHAOS: (looking happily upon his round, green flipper baby) Ms. Sheep, I really enjoyed making a baby with you.

Ms. Sheep: (only capable of making incoherent gurgling sounds as she watches her career crumble around her)

TKWDHAOS: No! That's not what I meant! I meant drawing a baby! FOR you! Not WITH you!

MS: Please stop talking.

TKWDHAOS: (adolescent voice cracking as hysteria overtakes him) For you! Drawing! No making babies!!! C'mon! You know what I meant! Right?

MS: Stop. Talking. Now. I need to call my therapist. I suggest you do the same.

(By now, the Cheerful Teaching Assistant is beyond help and must leave the room before she laughs herself into an injury. In the other room, the boy who is Gauged And Aerodynamic is sitting slumped over his computer because he has been sick all day. Even from this position and in the throes of his infirmity, he can clearly be heard to say, "You are one sick little dude...")

TKWDHAOS: You KNOW what I meant! You know...

MS: For the rest of the day? No eye contact.

TKWDHAOS: (collapsing in a chair) Agreed.

*In all the excitement, I forgot to erase the board.

*One of the subs came in to ask a question and now there is an unquashable rumor going around the building regarding my being With Child.

*Not true.

*No alien baby. With or without flippers.

*Just years and years of therapy ahead of me.

*It's still really cold out there.

*I'd go ask my car what the actual temperature is, but I don't trust it.

*And I probably shouldn't go out in my delicate condition anyway.

*There's a three day weekend coming up.

*Which seems sort of wrong considering that I just finished a long vacation.

*Not going to quibble, though. I like a three day weekend.

*I can knit mittens.

*And read my book.

*And not have to talk about alien babies.

Another Wednesday settles quietly into twilight and Sheepie is going to see about getting herself some dinner. Nutrition is important for we alien-flipper-baby-mommies, after all. I should probably eat something with folic acid since I hear good things about that. I don't know as I have anything with folic acid in it, but it's worth a look in the ol' cupboards. Failing that, I'll probably just go with something from the bourbon shelf.

At least until I can find a therapist who specializes in Unfinished Mitten/Temperature Sensitive Car/Alien-Flipper Baby Issues...


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Blame Game

As some of you know and most of you have guessed, I work with students for whom impulse control is a challenge. They mean well. They mostly get up every morning with good intentions and hope beyond all reason. But it doesn't always work out. Sometimes the "right" choice isn't always the "first" choice.

Hence, I am frequently in the position of having to explain the concept of Personal Responsibility. I've gotten rather good at it over the years. At the drop of a hat (or, as is more often the case, a chair that was flung across the room) I can launch into a well-honed speech on how each of us must accept the consequences of our choices. I have fifty or so versions and can choose one that best fits the situation. If needed, I can wax eloquent on the matter for at least an hour. I can weave in personal stories from my own life experiences or craft a parable for those who might not wish to hear how Ms. Sheep handled things back in the olden days. I will cover all the salient points including, but not limited to:

*How each of us has a choice when it comes to our actions.

*How our intentions do not mean as much as those actions.

*How there is more power in accepting responsibility than in handing it off to others.

*How behavior only changes when we acknowledge our poor choices.

*How you don't get to go bowling on Friday with the rest of the class if you can't get your act together and if the other stuff doesn't mean anything to you, then that should.

Yup. I'm a regular fount of Middle School wisdom. I've got it all down pat. Of course, most of the kids in my class have been with me for years. Some have followed me around the school district since they had cartoon characters on their bed sheets. They've heard every version of this speech more times than they can count. However I don't think this detracts from the poetic quality of my words in the least. In fact, so mellifluous am I that many of them actually doze off after the first thirty minutes...

You'd think that, with all that amazing insight into the art of responsibility, I'd be better equipped to deal with mistakes in my life. It would seem that I would be rather adept at owning my actions and learning from my poor choices. You'd think this was the case.

However, I am still capable of staring at a thrummed mitten and crying out:

Stupid blog! Making me knit mittens!!! The blog is mean and should be punished for this!!

It's not the blog's fault. I told the blog I thought I should knit mittens for Mrs. Secretary Who Sits At The Back Desk and the blog said I should do it. The blog wasn't wrong. The blog was telling me what I knew all along, really.

Further, the blog never once said I should knit thrummed mittens. That decision was mine. The blog never even mentioned thrumming until I brought it up. Thrums do not come from blogs. Thrums come from knitters who are bored and who think that stuffing mittens might be fun.

I probably shouldn't have used gift mittens as a first time thrumming experiment. For that matter, I probably should have referred to a pattern or some other source of information before merrily thrumming away. It didn't occur to me that it might be a good idea to plan the thrum placement to account for the thumb gusset increases. Even so, they still might work out.
But they are a gift. I shouldn't be throwing thrums around all willy-nilly if I'm not feeling sure about it. That is not responsible behavior. So I set the thrummed mittens aside and cast on for a regular pair. I still like the thrummed mittens. I'll finish them at some point. But I'll play it safe with the gift mittens. Starting over is something I have to accept as a consequence of my own poor choices.

Now if I can just find the words to make it right with the blog. Poor blog...


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Messages In The Wind

I think that the whole business of To Gift Or Not To Gift is a universal thing for the knitters. We've all been there. Some are just a bit more responsible about it, is all. I'm not exactly on the high end of that spectrum.

I was still debating the mitten situation when I awoke this morning. I know that Mrs. Secretary Who Sits At The Back Desk would appreciate a pair. I know that I could probably knit some mittens in relatively short order. I also know that she doesn't expect me to knit her any mittens and that I have many, many other things I'd rather knit.

I don't care for knitting mittens. It's nothing personal. I'm not anti-mitten or anything. I think it has something to do with the thumbs, although I can't be certain of that. I just don't knit a lot of mittens...

The debate raged on in my mind. Should I cast on? Should I forget the whole thing and pretend I never had a mitten-related discussion with MSWSATBD? What to do, what do do...

Since I spent yesterday at home engaged in arguments with myself over mittens, I decided to go out today for supplies. Sheepie needed munchies if she was going to keep her energy up. The Great Mitten Debate didn't look to be ending any time soon. I put on my coat and headed outside.

And it was FREEZING!!!

That did it. After coaxing the car into starting, fighting my way through the blustery breezes and purchasing my snack foods, I made my way back home. Once the heat was turned back up to crayon-melting temperatures, I did what I should have done two weeks ago. It took the realization that I was forcing poor MSWSATBD to face the winter temperatures unmittened to motivate me. I did the right thing.

I cast on for the mittens.

There are still roadblocks ahead, of course. I am not known for fidelity with the knitting and my roving eye has often been the cause of project separation. There is also the aforementioned dislike of mittens in general to be faced. Still, I think with concentration and a little self-discipline, I should be able to stay the course. As long as I don't do anything stupid.

Like suddenly decide to make thrummed mittens or something else I've never done before...


Saturday, January 09, 2010

Does Ability=Obligation?

The following conversation happened the week before the holiday break and occurred in the main office at my school. I was strolling through as I often do because it is a shortcut and I do love to save myself wear 'n tear when ever possible. My warranty expired a loooong time ago, after all.

As I was toddling along, Mrs. Secretary Who Sits At The Back Desk hailed me.

Mrs. Secretary Who Sits At The Back Desk: Oh, Ms. Sheep! I have a question. Is this yours? I found it in the parking lot and I know someone is looking for it.

Ms. Sheep: What is that?

MSWSATBD: (waving a piece of knitwear at in the general direction of MS) It's a mitten. And a nice one, too. Is it yours?

MS: (trying to not let disdain seep into her tone and failing utterly) Um. No. That is a store-bought mitten. I would not have a store-bought mitten. If I wanted a mitten, I would knit one. Actually, I'd knit two since one probably wouldn't do me much good.

MSWSATBD: Oh, you knit! You are so lucky. I love handknit mittens!

That conversation took less time to transpire than it did to transcribe. It was a minute, if that. I doubt that Mrs. Secretary even remembers it since all sorts of things have happened since then and most of them haven't included me at all because I'm actually not the center of the universe. However, it has caused me to think. The thoughts are the sort that have the potential to develop into dilemmas, if not full-blown issues.

Here are my thoughts in no particular order (except for when they are):

1. If only for a moment, Mrs. Secretary wanted me to knit her some mittens.

2. I want to knit her some mittens.

3. I have a basket filled with unfinished projects, all of whom sent me hate mail on New Year's Eve because they want to be finished in 2010.

4. I want to be the kind of person who wants to knit unto others.

5. I am a single person who has developed the habit of doing whatever the heck she feels like doing and that includes what goes on the needles.

6. Mrs. Secretary is wonderful and nurturing. The Cheerful Teaching Assistant calls her brand of caretaking "Tough Love." This is true but we get what we deserve and we all know it. We also appreciate it and are sad when Mrs. Secretary fails to mother us because she has to answer the phone or do other job-related activities.

7. I am currently knitting The Spite Sweater. I call it that because that's what I'm knitting it for. Spite. Pure spite. It is ugly and stupid and I don't care. I am knitting it because sweaters never work out for me and I am feeling snarky about that.

8. It should be noted that #7 is already an Issue, if not a full-on psychiatric condition. I can, right here and now, name at least five possible diagnoses that fit the symptoms. Borderline Personality Disorder comes to mind...

9. I want to want to knit mittens but do not want to knit mittens. I can't even work up the desire to think about wanting to knit mittens.

10. I am perfectly capable of knitting mittens and doing so rather quickly. I even have the yarn.

And now here I sit. I'm thinking, trying to not have Issues and still not knitting mittens. As I said, it was a quick conversation and the whole thing is almost a month in the past. Were I to not knit mittens, Mrs. Secretary would still hold me in her affections. I would still be allowed to use the office copier because I jam the one in the teacher's room every ten minutes. I would still get to keep the "good" phone in my office and she won't tell anyone I have it. When I screw up my Very Important Paperwork, I know that there is a secretary sitting at the back desk who will chastise me, but cover for me long enough so I can fix it. Nothing will change.

But I still feel like I should knit her some mittens. I am able to knit mittens. She likes mittens. I could do that one little thing. Except for the part where I haven't knit them because there are other things that are more appealing to me right now.

Mittens and my ability to knit them have taken over my thoughts. I suppose that, if I just cast on and powered through, the whole thing could be over and done with. Unless, of course, words gets out. Then I'll probably have to knit mittens for everyone and I'll never see the end of the endless mitten knitting. I'll have to quit my job to keep up and it won't be long before I'm known as "that crazy lady who lives in her car with two cats and who mumbles about mittens all day."

Now I feel like spinning because that is the furthest thing from knitting mittens I can think of. Frankly, the whole business is starting to slide out of control.

I feel an Issue coming on...


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Gainfully Employed Bullets Are More Painful

It's sad when I think about how, not just the last, but the last TWO Wednesday Night Bullet Posts were written while I was lounging around on vacation. Now, school has resumed and I am expected to stumble out of the house at 6:00 in the godforsaken morning so that I might be prepared to educate the uninterested masses for seven hours per day.

Ouch. That hurts.

But I take a little pleasure in knowing that it is Wednesday. The week is half done and I get to do a random sort of post instead of trying to come up with something that makes sense. I only have so much sense left after teaching middle school students. I like to save some in case the manse catches on fire or something equally fraught with the need to think clearly should occur.

Here's your bullet points for this week:

*Did I mention the part where I had to go back to school?

*No fewer than three people have commented to me this week that they feel they would do very well as retired teachers.

*I feel the same way.

*The other Most Frequently Heard Comment today was about how it really felt like Thursday.

*Usually it's just me that can't figure out what day it is so that was kind of comforting.

*Here's a weird thing. I've been thinking about how I might want to crochet something.

*I hate it when I forget how to crotchet.

*Forgetting makes me feel old.

*Today, Mommy Sheep sent me a bunch of crotchet patterns. She thought I might like them.

*See? That's weird right?

*Mommy Sheep Intuition.

*The Kid Who Doesn't Have An Off Switch was in rare form today.

*No off switch. Makes for a long day.

*The Great Debater (so called because he can argue a fly off doggy doo) made the following statement:

"I don't know how you can keep being so nice. Seriously. You must be like a saint or something. One of these days, you'll let me do it my way. You'll see that I'm right. Just give me five minutes. That's all I need. Five minutes and no witnesses"

*I am a good person because I told TGD that I didn't need his services at the moment and that I appreciate TKWDHAOS for his big personality.

*I am a bad person because I didn't say that right away. I needed a minute...

*I like to think that the good/bad scales tip in my favor on this one.

*I need to take out the trash.

*And fold some laundry.

*And pretend to knit a sweater that I know I won't finish because I never do.

*Except for that one time.

*I also need to clean the bathroom.

*Who has time for all that stuff and a full time job?

*Is this why people have children?

*Can you make them do stuff like that? Is it legal or do you have to pay them?

*There is no way I can be expected to tend to housekeeping stuff if I have to work.

*And I didn't do it during vacation since that would negate the purpose of having a vacation.

*Vacations mean sitting around, right?

*I don't have time to have children. I hear that takes a few months and that they have to reach a certain height before you can make them do heavy lifting.

*It's a quandary, that's what it is.

*I'll just sit here for a while longer and ponder it. Maybe I'll come up with a solution to this horrible scheduling dilemma.

So there's Wednesday. Granted it involved getting up and doing that work thing, but I suppose it's all in how you look at it. It's a regular paycheck and that lets me afford the broadband connection so I can complain about having to work for a living. There's a certain symmetry in that. You just have to think about it and the positives begin to come into focus.

Now if I can just put that kind of cognition into figuring out how to get the cats to take out the trash...


Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The View From Inside My Head

Perhaps I gave the wrong impression. I do that sometimes. I forget that everyone doesn't live in my head or know my every intention, thought and deed. Why everyone doesn't live in my head is a mystery to me because it is nothing short of a carnival in there. Sure, it gets a little loud sometimes and it doesn't always make sense, but you can't beat it for sheer entertainment value.

Alas, my head is my domain and it is impossible for the world to know of its delights. So, when Cursing Mama expressed some concern regarding my Impending Zombie Apocalypse Training and whether I might have let that lapse during the past vacation, I certainly understood. I didn't mention it. Not even once. But that doesn't mean it didn't happen. The ongoing commitment to viewing all relevant material is still my true purpose in life.

Aren't you sad you don't live in my head now? It's like this all the time...

I watched two training films over the course of my vacation. They were delightful opportunities to catch up on the knitting and also see if there were any new methods for defeating the undead menace that surely lurks right around the corner.

The first was the 1990 remake of Romero's Night Of The Living Dead. This one wasn't particularly well received and the reasons were surely valid. How does one improve upon the original? The classic? That which opened our eyes to the threat we'd previously chosen not to see?

Personally, I think it got a bad rap. It has its good points. They had the common sense to not try and repeat the earlier script word for word or, worse, to rewrite it beyond recognition. In fact, they did a rather nice job of updating it for content. What worked before did so only within the social context of the time. The newer version went for more of a See-What-Happens-When-We-Don't-Work-Together? theme and it worked.

Not much new to learn, but still a pleasant way to validate my established zombie defense plan.

In the final days of my vacation, the snows were flying and I was stuck inside. I was bored, missing the outside world and reminded of how this might be the state of affairs when the walking dead were roaming my streets.

So I used the interwebs to download another training film. This time, I went with one that probably doesn't have a wide viewership. I like to think that there might be ten of us who can claim to have watched it, but I don't think I'm going to risk starting a fan club or anything. It would just be me sitting down at the local rec. center and eating all the finger sandwiches by myself.

The makers of After The Day probably knew full well what they were getting into. It's pretty formulaic. You take an almost workable premise, a script that is more of a suggestion than a hard and fast document and a working budget of nothing then forge ahead. You ignore the fact that the plot line gets a little blurred after a while because most people aren't going to notice anyway. They'll be too busy laughing.

But this time, they did something a little bit different. They did something so outrageous that it probably got the entire production crew banned from the making of low budget horror movies for all time. Are you ready for this? You won't believe it.

They went and hired people who could actually act.

I know. It's crazy. But they did. And, while it isn't enough to save this movie, it was enough for me. It made me happy. I do love a well-delivered one-liner. Sadly, there wasn't much in the way of educational material, but I got what I could out of it. Apparently, in a zombie crisis, you should be aware of the following:

1. If you haven't horded food, it is too late once the bombs go off. Don't go out there.

2. Annoying neighbors don't get any better during the Apocalypse so you'd better choose your friends carefully now.

3. It is unwise to believe announcements made from helicopters, even if they tell you everything is fine. Everything is most certainly not fine, although you really can't do anything about it.

4. Becoming overly complacent about zombies will only lead to tears. And vampires. And this, as we all know, is how plot lines go horribly awry...

So, as you can plainly see, I have been keeping up with my research into the matter of Zombie Survival Tactics. Even when I am not blathering on and on about it, I am still firmly entrenched in my need to prepare for this horrible eventuality and to share what I have learned for the betterment of all the living. I would never let you down!

If I didn't have this pesky job, I could do it full time. I suppose that probably wouldn't be the best thing for me, though. As it stands, there are a variety of things inside my head. Without the distractions there would be only the zombies and it wouldn't be nearly as much fun in there...


Sunday, January 03, 2010

One Final Concession

I do it every time. I see a vacation on the horizon and visions of sugarplums dance in my head. I think of all the things I can do with that free time and I start planning. Before long, I've crafted a list that resembles the following:

1. Finish *insert knitting project name here*

2. Clean out the fridge.

3. Organize stash.

4. Spin 2 lbs of yarn.

5. Organize knitting patterns alphabetically, by type, yarn and desirability.

6. Learn Mandarin.

7. Re-carpet the living room.

8. Knit a lace shawl, block it and enter in a state fair.

9. Volunteer to knit ten sweaters for the homeless.

10. Bring about world peace.

I overreach. It's a bad habit and one I can't seem to break no matter how hard I try. Fortunately, I'm a forgiving sort who doesn't hold myself up to lofty standards. Still, I probably should be more embarrassed by how little I manage to cross off my School Vacation Lists. I suppose the lace shawl failure is something I could reasonably explain, if nothing else...

This past vacation was more of the same, achievement-wise. I can't even really blame Christmas since that was waaaay back at the beginning and there was ample time afterwards to be more productive. I had a sinus-thing going on, but it wasn't the worst illness I've ever experienced. It was really more of an annoyance than it was a true malady. I was down, but not out. There were some weather issues and a couple of cats who seemed to need more attention than one might think, but I also don't feel like those roadblocks were anything that should have kept me from the doing of great things.

I guess I got to feeling a little guilty about it today. Here we are at the end of another vacation and I really should have something to show for it. Something other than fifty candy wrappers and a pile of cracker crumbs...

So I pulled out one of those UFO's that had been crying from the knitting basket and finished it off. It seemed like the right thing to do. And, since it took me less than thirty minutes to wrap it up, it didn't really take away from the stuff I wanted to do on my last day of vacation. I felt very, very responsible for having made a good choice!

Very Responsible Fingerless Mitts!

The yarn is a mix of Daletta of Norway and Classic Elite Commotion. The pattern is incomprehensible since I sort of cobbled it together as I went along. And yes, I'm as surprised as anyone that they match. There was a bit of an issue with the thumb cast-off but it isn't really noticeable so I'm going to pretend it never happened. I love my Very Responsible Mitts!

We shall ignore the fact that I was supposed to have these done as a gift or that I am keeping them for myself instead of following through on the earlier goal. The giftee received a lovely, lace scarf for Christmas and was thrilled to the gills and my hands are cold. I was responsible all around. I prefer to bask in that golden glow rather than focus on where I may have crossed over to the dark side.

Six weeks to go until the next school vacation. That one will be shorter in duration so I won't have nearly as much time in which to do stuff. I'll probably be much more reasonable with my list making.

I'll leave off the shawl and maybe that fridge-cleaning stuff...


Saturday, January 02, 2010

New Year, New Stuff. Or Not...

Let's see...where were we? Oh, that's right! Christmas was behind us, the New Year was barrelling forward and Sheepie, together with her throbbing sinuses, was ringing in 2010 with appetizers and a Burn Notice marathon.

The unfinished handknits were whining piteously from the knitting basket, the Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty was staunchly guarding the Christmas tree because, on some level, he knew it was soon to come down and snow was beginning to get serious about falling.

Last, but not least, a sweater died a tragic death at the hands of a knitter who knew it wasn't ever going to work. RIP.

Now, here we are. The year is in its second day and seems to be settling in nicely. As is the snow. That stuff is falling like gangbusters out there. Thankfully, I don't live in the area where it is really making a statement, but it's still more than I care to see in any one storm.

The tree has been dismantled in spite of the AGK's objections. It was a battle to the finish what with a giant orange beast interfering with each and every step of the process, but I made it. I still can't find the bag where I store the decorations, but we'll deal with that next December. For now, I'm considering this holiday over and done with.

Feel free to remind me of this when I start complaining about not being able to find that stupid bag when next I need to trim a tree. I won't hold it against you. Much...

Now is the time to attend to those little things that were set aside in order that I might eat my own weight in Santa-shaped chocolates. The unfinished knitting had a point when it suggested that I might consider finishing one or two of those projects. There are any number of things that could either be finished or frogged. The space taken up by WIPs is better used for the storing of newer, better projects. Perhaps even things I might actually knit to completion.

And I think it is safe to say that the sweater thing has proven to be a bad idea right now. Even though I started that last one during the summer, remembered to not call it a sweater in deference to the Blog Sweater Curse and finally set it aside when things got dicey, it still didn't work out. My recent review of the workmanship revealed too many errors to bother with fixing it.

No, it is best to tend to those waiting projects. They are small things and well within my skill set. Socks...hats...mitts...all good stuff. Useful things that will make me happy and not cause me the pain that the sweater caused. Plus I won't have to remember all those stupid rules like how I can only call it a dishcloth-with-sleeves or ever refer to things like "collars," or "sleeve length."

There is really only one thing to do. It is the right thing. It is the responsible thing. It is what any reputable knitter would do.

Say it with me, people:

Start another sweater!